August 11th, 2005
The day Korea went silent was the greatest single act of terror the world has ever known. There were no bombs in Samsungs tower, no poisonous explosions, no shootings, no crystal night. There was only that quiet dormant virus, spreading silently from one person to another, insidiously latching itself inside the most sensitive human organ.
Samsung tower dominated Seoul, an icicle rising from clustered silver buildings, connecting the heavens to earth in its mirrored windows. The wealth of United Korea was in its people: brilliant, poised, diplomatic communicators. Private industry and government invested in the advancement of United Korea’s primary resource, and at the vibrant center of that development was the merging of machines and men.
Each Korean citizen was implanted with mechanical discs that gave him or her access to an instant encyclopedia of knowledge and the full vocabulary of seven world languages. At the age of one year, each child could speak fluently, and the effect was eerie and magnificent. Within a few years, Korean teenagers were babbling in several languages simultaneously, the slang a sharp mixed tongue impossible for all but the most brilliant of linguists to follow. Within two generations, the world was relying on Korea for diplomats, programmers, managers, entertainers, businessmen and bankers. They said that to speak with a Korean was to open a library of world knowledge.
In sixty seconds on October 1st, the virus hatched from its incubation and destroyed the precious language center in each implanted mind. Some say that it was a group of Americans who did the job, angry that Samsung closed its U.S. offices and left them without work. Others claim it was done by religious conservatives, taking a hard line on the controversial issues surrounding the modification of the mind.
Stuttered half-words, grunts and screams ripped through the country. On conference calls business leaders grabbed their throats and shook their heads, their brains feeding meaning without words. Confusion and terror leaped from village to village; riots, mass hysteria and suicides swept the country. Terrible crashes occurred as transportation officials failed to communicate with each other. The minister of finance, at the age of 98, the oldest man in government, managed to reach out over international lines, flexing the muscles he had not used for 70 years as he cried across the oceans of the world. Help. Help.
During that silent time there were acts of great compassion. Mothers sang wordlessly to their children; strangers touched comforting hands on the street; lovers watched each other’s faces with new curiosity. The nation searched for meaning in the flickered expressions, the skin and eyes, the lip, the head. In a world dominated by screens, by virtual imitation, the forced exile from language made the people turn to each other. The heroes of that time go unrecorded, for they were all silent. Aid workers came, blue helmets and students from every continent on earth, coming to teach the ancient words. They expected chaos, but they found a new world.