[FOUNTAIN]Breaking away from old affectionsAt the beginning of a new year, the euro is the main topic of conversation for Europeans. The new currency was at the center of the new year celebrations. During the first working day, the first thing Europeans talked about was the euro. It is becoming a part of everyday life.
Nevertheless, Germans seem to feel sorry to bid farewell to the deutsche mark. It is not easy for them to separate from the beloved friend that produced today's prosperity from the ruins of World War II. Older generations who shared the sweet and bitter of life with the deutsche mark seem to feel the most regret.
But not all Germans are obsessed with fond memories of the deutsche mark; many are trying to break away from their attachment. Though the deutsche mark will circulate together with the new currency until the end of February, many shops announced that they would accept only euros. The German government seems reluctant to discourage this outcome. Rather than wait until the end of February, the government wants the deutsche mark to make its exit as soon as possible. It forecast that the mark would disappear from the market in two weeks. There seems to be cool-headed recognition of the reality that the old currency should be forgotten fast to help the new currency become established.
Koreans are unusually tender-hearted people. No matter how much economic difficulty they have, they never ignore the difficulties of neighbors. Though last year's economy was bad, the Salvation Army took in more donations at year's end than ever in its history.
However, the strong emotions of Koreans often create problems. Affection can rob Koreans of cool-headed judgment. The series of scandals that enraged and frustrated Koreans for the whole of last year stems from their emotional nature. Most of the scandals involved unlawful monetary transactions, but they also arose from "brotherly love." Controversies over the administration's appointments of high-ranking officials can also be attributed to the similar nature of people who were in charge of these appointments. They felt it considerate not to ignore people who helped out during difficult times.
It is time to sever these ties of private affection － not only the structural chains of corruption but also old, dishonorable relationships. Above all, let's do away with regional ties and alumni relationships during this year's elections. Unless we do, we cannot take a single step forward.
The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik