A South Korean way of Godlikeness

This is not a news but my recollection of an eccentric character who was quite popular for a short moment. I think that this character would show you one side of the modern South Korean mind.

It was about 8 years ago, I was a sophomore when I got to know him for the first time. An article from the web which led me to him was telling that he had been proclaiming himself God Almighty since before the dawn of internet in Korea — he then had used to write “I am God” things on a humor section of one of the major Bulletin Board Systems because the section was the most popular section of the BBS.

There are tons of scoundrels who refer themselves as God and exploit poor, gullible folks throughout the history of mankind but this guy had something different, making him somehow special in comparison to the other charlatans: he was something that could be called as god of the humble class.

Mr. Lee was a janitor of an elementary school and in his mid-40s then. No one exactly knew what he was doing at work and how he maintains his life but it was clear that he spent quite a lot of time promoting himself; he wrote mostly about facts of his godlikeness and future plans. Among his plans there was one about showing his supernatural power (he preferred to show creating clouds and lights, which is relatively easy, according to him) in public TV show and take James Randi’s (he actually mentioned the name) million dollar and a throne of the world.

Not only gods of Populous and Black & White are in need of followers but Mr. Lee was also desperate for them. He built his followers’ group himself on the web and wrote a torrent of words, his wants and fantasies mixed. People were paying a visit to his group and often left messages which were mostly mocking him. As god of the humble class, mild and naive, he used to take their ironic comments literally and sincerely promised to hire them to a future corporation of his. Yes, it was one of his future plans to build a big corporation after him being on the throne of the world and hire the first 10,000 people who joined into his group. If you are now wondering why would God need his corporation, with himself being God, you don’t know South Korea. There are some companies which have been dubbed as “even a god would want to be employed.” Getting hired to a big corporation is considered as a supreme task.

I was wondering why he kept insisting that the government should designate Gimpo, where he was living in, as sacred land. He even submitted a formal request to the government for designation of his estate as a cultural property, which was soon rejected. (In a short post at his group message board, he expressed his anger from the rejection, “…whereas birthplaces of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad were designated…”) Probably he can do that himself later if he once proves himself to the public of the world and makes Mr. Randi go bankrupt and lets him die in poverty, I thought. In fact, his estate was at risk of being expropriated by the government, according to the Gimpo new town plan. He was so nervous that he would “lose a big money which an ordinary man could never have earned throughout his entire life” and expressed his nervousness into his writings of that era. He was enormously happy when he heard that the government had revised the plan so he promised to repulse every typhoons heading to Korea. The typhoon which was then heading to Korea was dissipated before landing in, thanks to him. (at least he insisted so.)

From characters of Toji to the fallen appointee to the Minister of Environment who were nationwidely ridiculed by having explained that she “just loved land and it has nothing to do with speculation” when she was accused of land speculation at the parliamentary hearing, Koreans were always attached deeply with land and our dear God was not an exception.

But a few days after the dissipation he reviewed his real-estate registration and found that his dear property was still on the expropriation list. Exasperated, he canceled his promise over typhoons and proclaimed he will never be concerned in from then on. This time, it was us poor Koreans who had to tremble in fear of loss.

Still, Mr. Lee, now aged 53, aims to convince the public that he is the One by demonstrating his miracle, which unfortunately have never succeeded yet. But right now his urgent aim is mastering English — in order to gain popularity and affirmation globally. Yes, his aim is that high and in his worldview, English is the only way to connect him to the world. “At the end of the year I will have memorized 2,000 English sentences in total. Writing in English would be far easier should I once master the word order. After that, I will appear in an American TV show and surprise everyone and then everyone will be desperate to have me as their king,” Mr. Lee wrote 7 years ago.

After a long time I visited his web group out of wondering how he’s doing. “In 2012 at the latest, I will be a master of English and accede to the throne of Israel,” his recent message at the front of the website welcomed me. (Somehow Judeo-Christianity had invaded into the South Korean culture successfully after the Korean War.) That God couldn’t have managed himself to master English throughout these 7 years saddened me but I am not going to deny him as Peter did to Jesus before the cock crows. He may not be God Almighty but is the one who represents those who still haven’t beleft their obsession with real-estate, those who are being swayed by aimless self-help craze, especially with English, and those who vie hard to be hired by big corporations — namely South Koreans.


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