It has been 49 days since he passed away. According to the traditional Korean funeral custom (which I understand has a Buddhist origin), that is the day when the alive send the deceased away for good. Ritually and emotionally.
On 23 May, I was in fact in the middle of writing something rather lighthearted on this blog, when my baby sister called me and told me that Roh Moo-Hyun the former president of South Korea fell off a cliff and died. She also added that the police were investigating the possibility of suicide. I was totally shaken up by this news. I know I am not the only one who was shocked and saddened by the news, but I had my reasons. As some of you already know, my doctoral research, which I have just completed, is about him and his supporters network called Nosamo. I have looked at a period from his then party’s primaries in the spring of 2002 until his retirement from office at the beginning of 2008, questioning what led his supporters to utilise the Internet in the way they famously did. Given this fact, a couple of friends even told me that I should write a proper obituary for him. Perhaps I should. But perhaps later. I just can’t find words so far.
I don’t know him personally, of course. The nearest I was to him was at the beginning of this year when an interview with him was almost arranged and then replaced by a suggestion for one with his former secretary instead. Throughout my fieldwork and writing – or to put it another way, observing and “analysing” the ups and downs of him and his supporters – I was sort of proud that I was successfully maintaining an appropriate distance from my “research subjects”. Yet, this doesn’t seem to change the fact that I spent a few good years of my life with him, in a sense, most closely. His death got to me in such a way that everything still feels surreal. Or ephemeral.
I am not a religious person but I am sure he is in a better place now.