Gyeongju’s most infamous example of public art—second only to the tomb mounds, the temples, the pagodas, and the idols—is the Hitler Mural, which is currently being utilized to hawk used cellular phones to Southeast Asians.
Note the flags on the front of the store, the white Cambodian profile of Angkor Wat among them, and the yellow Vietnamese star that defeated both the Americans and the Khmer Rouge. It may be somewhat ironic that this large depiction of Adolph Hitler happens to have been painted on one of the more multicultural streets in Gyeongju, as it is currently right next to a large Chinese restaurant where the harshly shifting tones of Mandarin could clearly be heard. On top of that, within a few hundred paces of this image there are now three Vietnamese restaurants and two small international grocery stores (selling goods from South and Southeast Asia) nestled beside one of the nicer Korean coffee shops in the city (called AAA, a cup of espresso goes for 2,500 won (about $2), but they won’t turn on the heat!), as well as the usual clothing stores dumping sweatshop goods on ajummas with wads of Shin-Sa-im-dangs burning holes in their pockets. This is not exactly the ideal state of the world for the leader of the Thousand Year Reich. Inside the nice coffee shop there were two European tourists reading books, as well as this half-Jewish, half-Irish American—a direct descendant of the Boss Jew of the 1950s—all of whose ancestors would have been gassed like insects if the man in the mural had somehow managed to win.
Borges wrote of the way time reduced the concept of the deadly arrow—which won the Battle of Agincourt—to a mere shape, a harmless or even a helpful image helping to guide people to their destinations. After Borges’ death, the idea of the arrow was turned into a cursor by the designers of modern GUIs. Something similar has begun to happen here. It may seem obvious to some of you, but there will come a time when people stop discussing Hitler and stop using him as a point of comparison for whatever or whoever they do not like. Names of fearsome, brutal warriors like Hannibal or Kublai Khan once terrified millions, but now they belong to history books, Hollywood movies, and famously unfinished opium-laced poems; even a man like Napoleon, responsible for countless deaths, has given his name to an amusing complex, and left the smoking battlefields of Europe far behind him. His corpse is probably less famous than his severed penis.
Hitler has been dead for less than half that long, but in spite of the body count and the mechanical savagery, the same will inevitably happen to him. This ridiculously ignorant and inappropriate mural is one step on the way to a world in which Godwin’s Law is no longer obeyed.