Numbed by Public Campaign Banners

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Numbed by Public Campaign Banners

In a ''Kindergarten Republic,'' People Do Not Learn Individual Responsibility and Creativity

"Please board in order. Please keep your voice down. Please do not run..." Trains and subways are full of announcements, which amount only to noise pollution to which no one listens. Are those announcements ordered by the authorities? If so,do they really think it is the only way to maintain social order? Are we, the citizens, kindergarteners? Slowly and quietly, we become upset.

Maybe we deserve the announcements. If we reflect on our behavior in public places, we may think we need all those guidelines, but there is no need for us to make our shameful condition public. Hanging banners promote tax payment month. We feel dizzy. After receiving our tax bills, why do we need all those advertisements urging us to pay taxes on time? It all costs money, and the government''s hyperactive publicity campaigns have made the citizens numb.

Let us look at the express bus rest areas. We are lost in waves of miscellaneous announcements urging passengers to board as soon as possible. None are needed if a bus stops for 10 minutes and then departs. In the United States, if a passenger misses a bus at a rest area, the passenger is fully responsible. Maybe that it is somewhat cruel, but it respects the sense of self-responsibility of each passenger. If a passenger does not show up on time, it means the person does not want to depart with the bus. Why wait, then?

We are sick and tired of the blatant campaign slogans promoting environmental protection and water saving. It is visual pollution to look at campaign ads which sometimes are senseless. On buses in Seoul streets, we see ads telling us to respect bus lanes. Instead, shouldn''t there be ads thanking drivers for observing the lanes?

It is also a funny - and almost disturbing - idea to have a "family month." In restaurants, we see ads saying, "Spend your weekend with your family" on the walls. Does it strike us that these ads are a violation of our privacy?

Official documents, normally orders from upper authorities, are poorly-written and unpolished. There is no self-regulation, nor is the responsible authority named. All organizations in our society, including political parties without ideology but certainly with a boss and companies where presidents are always right, move under the control of those above them in the hierarchy.

Finally, all eyes of our society are focused on the president. Even ministers at cabinet meetings wait for the president''s decision. It is amazing that our country has run as well as it has under these conditions. Everything in our society, including the tradition of absolute rule, strict patriarchy and even the school system, emphasize devotion and obedience repeatedly, making us players in a puppet show.

No one teaches us self-discipline and independent decision-making. There is no criticism, no disagreement. Everyone must obey. It is the end of the world if one goes off course. Our society often falls into a state of panic over a small change because the citizens are not trained to think and decide on their own. When the economy struggles a little, people panic, tighten their purse strings, and a small problem becomes a major one.

Under the current social circumstances, it is almost impossible to dream of creativity, uniqueness and originality. We must ask the government not to overuse those useless slogans and advertisements. Responsibility cannot be avoided by putting up posters. Sometimes, those posters drive our citizens into ignorance. Education levels in Korea are among the highest in the world; now we need to conduct research on how to prevent self-regulation and responsibility from becoming a hollow message.

We need to take down those slogans existing for the sake of formality. We can bear foreigners jeering at us. However, the lingering aftereffects of these mindless campaigns are just too much to bear.

The writer is a professor of psychiatry at Sung Kyun Kwan University.

by Lee Si-hyung

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