The Ides of March


On March 15, 44 B.C. Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome.  Immortalized in Shakespeare’s classic, "Julius Caesar," the assassination stands as one of the most inauspicious days in history.  The date previously represented a modest lunar event, but following Caesar’s assassination and the establishment of the Roman Empire it became a lasting reminder of portends.  The day turned out to be a fine one in merry ol’ Seoul, although at Seoul City Hall today thousands showed up to protest the government’s decision to build an "administrative city" south of Soeul and move a handful of Korean Government ministeries to this new "city."  Why were they protesting?  Over money, of course.  The government’s original plan to move the national capital to the Gongju-Yongi region about 100 miles south was struck down by Korea’s high court last October.  However, the government still decided to move go forward with a scaled down plan to build a smaller city and move several ministeries there.  While it will economically benefit that region, it will inevitably be a very expensive infrastructure project.  The protest had ended by the time I drove past the city hall today, but I did see a number of busses encircling the area and police lingering around to make sure that the protest wound down peacefully.  I had also heard that every 15th of the month Koreans endure emergency preparedness drills, but someone told me that the city discontinued those a few years ago. 

I thought it a bit ironic that "White Day" is followed by the Ides of March.  Those who know one event typically do not know the other.  "White Day" is a uniquely Korean celebration.  In Korea on Valentine’s Day women typically give gifts to their husbands or boyfriends, and then one month later on "White Day" men reciprocate and give gifts to their wives or girlfriends.  The celebration is followed by "Black Day," on April 15th, when women who did not receive anything for "White Day" gather to eat jajang (자장) noodles with friends who were also ignored on "White Day."  I found out about "White Day" yesterday when a thoughtful colleague showed up in our office with a bucket of beautiful red roses from Namdaemun Market and passed them out to all the women in our office.  He passed them out next to my desk.  All the women were wowed by his gesture, and I did my best not to look like a forgetful Luddite.  He said that it’s an office tradition he enjoys doing every year.  I also think he loves the attention. 🙂  The office was abuzz as women came to collect their roses.  Either way, I thought it ironic that such a happy day is followed by an inauspicious day, the Ides of March.  Of course, most Koreans don’t know what the Ides of March represents.  Interestingly, Valentine’s Day came from another violent Roman event–the death of St. Valentine.  How inauspicious.

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