Online patriots can learn about Dokdo, plant Web flowers

More Koreans are taking their patriotic campaigns into the virtual world as yesterday marked the anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule. The Northeast Asia History Foundation opened on Tuesday a digital archive of the history of Dokdo, the disputed chain of islands in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) claimed by both Korea and Japan. The Web site dokdohistory.com includes a 3D rendering of the islets, a photo gallery, and other information. The history section contains ancient maps provided by the Seoul History Museum and a timeline of events on the islets. The Web site is in Korean, but the foundation said that it is planning to create English, Chinese and Japanese language versions soon. On Second Life, the three-dimensional virtual world game, the Dokdo islets were sculpted and opened to the public earlier this month. There is also a cyber exhibition space in Second Life where users can walk through a virtual museum with panels of Dokdo flora and fauna.\r\nWeb users are also showing their patriotism by growing Korean cyber flowers. On the Web site mugunghwa.or.kr, run by the civic group Mugungnara, people can grow a digital mugunghwa, known in the West as the rose of Sharon. The national flower of Korea, it was celebrated in an old children’s song that said it could be seen “everywhere.” Unfortunately, the story behind the disappearance of the mugunghwa is sad, rife with propaganda promulgated to crush Koreas spirit when the country was under colonial rule. “The Japanese wanted to get rid of all things that they thought could relate to patriotic sentiments and the mugunghwa was for a long time considered a symbol of determination and perseverance”, said historian Kim Yong-bum.\r\nKim said that bushes of mugunghwa were uprooted and burned, many of them replaced with cherry trees, the Japanese favorite. The flower didnt earn its official reputation, until it was included in the lyrics of the Korean national anthem. It was only adopted as the national flower after Korea was liberated from Japanese rule. By that time, however, much of the countryside had been stripped of the plant. Although Mugungnara conducts most of its promotional campaigns for the flower off-line, one of its main online activities is a Web simulation that allows users to plant and “grow” the flower. Much like a game, people can adopt a mugunghwa seed and give it sunlight, water and fertilizer over a certain period to see it develop into a shrub.

By Wohn Dong-hee Staff Writer [wohn@joongang.co.kr] – August 16, 2007

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