Saturday, March 7, 2009

Omanwon Kenobi

In case you're wondering what the government does with all its R&D money, you have your answer: They have developed and enhanced Jedi mind tricks to convince people (namely, the descendants of Shin Saimdang) that something is what it really is not (namely, that Shin Saimdang on the new 50,000-won bill looks at all authentic). See here and here to understand what all the hoopla is about.

Reports the Chosun Ilbo:
Choi Sun-kyu, the head of the Kangnŭng Ch'oé clan association, had earlier complained that Shin's portrait, the first of a woman on a Korean banknote, is an inaccurate representation of a contemporary portrait. Shin was a prominent 16th-century artist, calligrapher and mother of Confucian scholar Yulgok Yi Yi. The new W50,000 banknote will go into circulation in June.

The moment he met with BOK officials, Choi asked why the portrait on the banknote "inaccurately" represent her authentic image. But he began nodding his head when BOK officials explained in detail and presented some data to him, saying it is possible that a portrait on a banknote can be different from an authentic portrait. Shin's face appears fuller on the bill.

After a lengthy discussion, Choi left, saying he wished officials had explained the matter earlier. "I respect the BOK's decision," he added.
It's possible the Bank of Korea sent him home with a bunch of free samples of their product, but I'm still behind the Jedi mind trick theory. I'm guessing this is how the conversation went down:
CHOI: I want to know why the portrait on the banknote inaccurately represents my ancestor's image.

BOK SCIENTIST: The portrait on the banknote accurately represents your ancestor's image.

CHOI: [nodding] The portrait accurately represents my ancestor's image.

CHOI'S WIFE: But it doesn't look a thing like her!

BOK SCIENTIST: It looks exactly like her.

CHOI'S WIFE: [nodding] It looks exactly like her.

CHOI: [nodding] Yes, it looks exactly like her.

BOK SCIENTIST: It's possible that a portrait on a banknote can be different from an authentic portrait.

CHOI & WIFE: [nodding] It's possible that a portrait on a banknote can be different from an authentic portrait.

BOK SCIENTIST: You respect the BOK's decision.

CHOI & WIFE: [nodding] We respect the BOK's decision.
It's not just the weak-minded Choi on whom Omanwon Kenobi tried these powers of persuasion, but the P'yŏngsan Shin clan association remained unconvinced:
Shin Jung-soo, the head of the association, said confusion could arise if her authentic portrait kept at Ojukheon, her home in Gangneung, is different from the portrait on the banknote. "It's a regret that her picture on the banknote is not an accurate representation of the authentic portrait," he said.
When all else fails, convince the naysayers that they're stupid:
Lee Jong-sang, the painter who drew Shin for the new banknote, told the Chosun Ilbo by phone, "Please let your readers know by all means that the portrait on the banknote is of high artistic value." No one knows what Shin Saimdang actually looked like. Legend has it that Kim Eun-ho, the painter who drew the original portrait, drew it after seeing her face in a dream. Lee equally permitted his imagination some room.
There may be something to that. In the United States, for example, the $100 bill has a portrait of Benjamin Franklin (shown below). Mr Franklin was an important politico and quite the lady's man, and he used his influence over the media to ensure that his visage consistently got favorable reviews.

When his body was exhumed by historians who wished to verify theories that Mr Franklin had been poisoned with arsenic (it later turned out they were looking for Zachary Taylor), scientists at the Smithsonian lobbied for a chance to use forensic facial reconstruction to determine Benjamin Franklin's actual appearance.

Their conclusion was that he looked a lot like Ron Howard's freaky younger brother Clint. Like George Washington chopping down the cherry tree and Lincoln freeing the slaves, Benjamin Franklin's charming distinguished gentleman looks are a fabrication of history.

Frankly, I wish they'd just kept well enough alone. Anyway, all you E2's out there should be careful, just in case the Ministry of Research & Development starts licensing the Jedi mind trick out to hagwon owners.

If you walk in complaining that the apartment they gave you is smaller than promised and the manager replies, "Your two-room apartment has three rooms," then you should run, run, run away. As of now, there is no known antidote to the Jedi mind trick for the weak-willed. Your only option is to lie back and think of England, because you're gonna get screwed.

Fun fact: North Korean strongman Kim Jong-il got the inspiration for his 'do from a character played by Clint Howard in a 1980s B-movie of which the Dear Leader was particularly fond. Clint still doesn't realize how close he came to being kidnapped to the workers' paradise.

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