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Dark chasers and diversity

Aug 23,2017
As I researched the total solar eclipse that passed over the United States on Aug. 21, I learned about “dark chasers,” a group of people who are willing to travel at all costs to observe the phenomenon. They will go anywhere in the United States, Asia or the middle of the ocean to experience the shadow of the Moon obscuring the light of the Sun.

Jay Pasachoff has experienced 65 eclipses. He first saw one on his honeymoon in 1974. His wife, Naomi, has seen 39 eclipses. The astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts says that he feels a kind of primitive excitement watching the world turn dark.

Kate Russo is a psychologist and first spotted an eclipse on the coast of France in 1999. After seeing the second one in her life in Madagascar, Africa, in 2001, her travel itinerary for the next two years was set based on the eclipse calendar. After chasing 10 eclipses for nearly 20 years, she has experienced only 22 minutes of total eclipse, when the disk of the Sun is fully shadowed by the Moon.

For those who chase total eclipses, clear weather is the best present nature can offer. After flying thousands of miles, these hunters cannot witness the Sun turning dark on a rainy or cloudy day. But they don’t give up. In such cases, they chip in to rent a plane and go beyond the clouds.

These “dark chasers” show that American society is a melting pot of diversity.

Before the latest total eclipse, the “dark chasers” received some media attention. They made various media appearances to share their excitement about witnessing this breathtaking natural phenomenon. They seem to consider such activities some form of personal duty to educate the next generation of their kind.

If these people lived in Seoul, what would people around them think? They are likely to be considered lazy folk who slack off at their jobs and focus on something useless, or rich kids who are wasting their money on a silly hobby. Many Koreans find it hard to understand spending money on something that has no financial gain.

Since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, white supremacy and neo-Nazism are being given attention. However, American society still recognizes diversity in its values, and when it comes to diversity, it is healthier than Korean society.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 22, Page 30

*The author is the New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

SHIM JAE-WOO