[OUTLOOK]In praise of our Korean heroesThe year 2001 is coming to an end already. It was six years ago when I first came to Korea and it seems that the years have flown by.
I think it is because life in Korea is very dynamic and fast-paced. In fact, Koreans' lives are very passionate and dramatic compared to those of people of other countries.
Koreans work very hard at their jobs and their loyalty to their company is among the highest in the world. But it seems that Koreans have little pride or are far from generous when it comes to evaluating Korea or themselves.
Koreans often say, "This is how the advanced countries do it," to point out the competitiveness of other countries and at the same time criticize their weaknesses.
The media also seem to highlight the achievements of other countries more often than those of Korea. Is this because Koreans are innately modest people? Most Koreans think that it is just a formality when foreigners compliment Korea or Koreans and pay no attention even when it is the truth and said from the heart.
But it's a different story when foreigners criticize Koreans.
The criticism often gets published with many solutions or case studies on how Korea can improve.
It is great that we learn from the achievements of other countries, but somehow, to me, it seems that Koreans are just too hard on themselves.
That is also the case for foreigners who live in Korea.
They seem to criticize quite a lot what is inconvenient compared to other advanced countries － what Korean workers lack, what needs to be done to improve doing business in Korea and so on.
In most cases, these critics have valid points, but I believe what they have overlooked is that Korea's history of industrialization is less than 50 years in duration, compared to a history of a few hundred years of industrialization in the Western world.
Not only that, 50 years ago Korea had just emerged from another country's rule and was then in ruins during and after the Korean War.
Today things are much better － but still, the country is divided in two, is required to spend a great deal of budget for national defense and still has almost no natural resources.
Since last year, I have been serving on the judges panel to select the "Korean of the Year." In the progress of this work, I have seen and been touched by many individuals and organizations who sacrifice themselves to serve their communities. Among them, many devote themselves to helping people who suffer in different parts of the world.
I believe that these people are the energy and moving force of Korea's development and prosperity, just as in many other countries there are people who sacrifice themselves to serve others.
I salute the many Koreans who sacrificed even their lives to serve society. Their endeavors have sometimes cost them their own comfort as well as that of their families.
The 119 Rescue Unit personnel who sacrificed their lives to save others' and Dr. Jin-Soo Lee, who sacrificed all that he achieved to dedicate his life to the development of cancer research, are among the people who have done so. Is there a more beautiful deed than to sacrifice one's life for that of another?
Such altruism, fundamentally, is impossible without the love for humanity. Koreans need to remind themselves what a compassionate, loving and beautiful people they are.
This is not false pride or arrogance. It is right to evaluate one's own qualities correctly.
As this year comes to a close, I salute and give the highest praise to all the people who silently work hard at their jobs and sacrifice themselves for the people and nation. They make Korea what it is today and heighten Korea's prestige in the world.
The writer is the president of Allianz First Life.
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