[EDITORIALS]A Christmas criticismOnce again students and teachers are complaining that they have been forced to buy a designated amount of Christmas seals this year to raise funds to fight tuberculosis. It is lamentable that the Christmas seal campaign, intended to help our neighbors suffering from lung disease, continues to be carried out in a compulsory manner and thus has become the object of public grievances.
Although Korea is on the verge of joining the ranks of advanced economies, its link to tuberculosis resembles that of an underdeveloped country. Last year, 3,400 people died of the disease, a figure that is designated by law as a serious epidemic.
Tuberculosis is the most common cause of death among major epidemics. The number of patients with tuberculosis stands at 220,000, or one out of every 200 Koreans. The rate is the highest among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The total is three times as high as that of Japan and 16 times that of the United States.
The Korean National Tuberculosis Association has been selling Christmas seals for 70 years in a bid to raise public awareness of the dangers posed by the lung ailment, and to raise money to fight the disease. This year, the organization printed 32 million seals, priced at 200 won (17 cents) apiece, to raise 6.5 billion won.
For grown-ups, the seals may bring back childhood memories of applying the stickers to letters or Christmas cards. But the seals are of no use to today's children, who are accustomed to e-mail and cell phones for sending messages.
The tuberculosis association allotted 70 percent of this year's seals to schools across the country, and teachers had to force students to buy them, touching off the public complaints. Instead of striving to draw up promotional plans to attract citizens into the campaign, the association has resorted to an easy method by assigning the stamps to schools. How can students learn the value of helping others in need? The tuberculosis association should devise a new way to promote the sale of Christmas seals.