The Public Trials and Tribulations of 'Park Ji-sung Road'

      December 04, 2008 12:29

      The main street in Forest Park, a small city in the U.S. state of Georgia, is called "Hines Ward Pass" after Korean-American football player Ward, who took the Pittsburgh Steelers to their first Super Bowl victory in 26 years in 2006 with his first MVP honor after graduating from Forest Park High School. Wearing a yellow cowboy hat, Ward was guest of honor in a parade of the street attended by tens of thousands yelling "MVP!" to welcome their hero home. The city changed the name of the street specially to honor Ward.

      A 19.2 km stretch of road linking Seonam Temple with Naganeupseong Folk Village in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, is called "Cho Jung-rae Road." Cho's novel "The Taebaek Mountains" depicts the lives of around 60 people in the region just after the Korean War. Cho was born in Seonam Temple. His father was the deputy head priest of the temple, and Suncheon City named the road after Cho in 2005. The city of Boseong which the road leads to is also prominently featured in the novel, and did not oppose the name change.

      Park Ji-sung, who scored the decisive goal against Portugal that propelled the Korean squad into the top 16 of the 2002 World Cup, lives in Mangpo-dong, Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. Former Gyeonggi Province governor Sohn Hak-kyu, who visited Park's house after the World Cup, promised to name a road near the home after the soccer star in his honor. They did so in June 2005 when Park joined the Premier League, naming a six-lane, 1.3 km road, leading from Suwon to the edges of Hwaseong, "Park Ji-sung Road."

      But problems arose after the road ended up linking with Dongtan new town's central park, which is currently under construction. Hwaseong City ended up re-naming the 3.4 km stretch of road extending from Park Ji-sung Road "Central Park Road," meaning the road ended up having two different names. Hwaseong is said to oppose using Park's name, saying it may be problematic to name a strip of highway after a living person. Suwon city compromised and offered to call it "Ji-sung Road" instead. But no agreement has yet been reached.

      The government has presented a revised bill to the National Assembly that will allow the names of living people to be used as "honorary" road names rather than official, legal names. The move comes because the reputations of living people could change later on. But Suncheon and Boseong, in mutual agreement, have been using Cho Jung-rae Road as the official designation for the past three years. If residents love a particular person, naming roads after him or her while they are alive should not be problematic. Very few Koreans will frown while passing by a "Park Tae-hwan Road" or "Kim Yu-na Street."

      By Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Hong-jin

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