[VIEWPOINT]Korea's youth christen a new era

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[VIEWPOINT]Korea's youth christen a new era

I'm not trying to make a play on words. I may be the only person who has this perspective, but 2003 heralds the era of yusin, or revitalizing reform. As defined by Korean dictionaries, yusin means reforming the old system to make it new.

Living in this tumultuous world for more than half a century, I experienced the yusin regime under the dictatorship of former President Park Chung Hee in the 1970s. But the problem is that I have never understood what yusin really meant. That was weird. I could easily grasp the meanings of revolution, civil war, riots, revolt and heroic deeds. But why has the word yusin always been obscure?

As time went by, the grandiose term disappeared like wasted goods.

And then came the Dec. 19 election for the 16th president of Korea. By the time the election was over, I was overwhelmed with surprise. I was not surprised by who won the presidential race. What shocked me was that the power of Korea's youth was proved once again.

Indisputably, the power of youth began during the World Cup soccer games last June. Millions of red-clad young Koreans swarmed the cities' major thoroughfares to cheer the national soccer team, repeatedly chanting, "Dae-Han-Min-Guk," or "Republic of Korea." Their tremendous, unheard-of enthusiasm bewildered me.

The passion was rekindled in the candlelit rallies on cold winter nights by youngsters protesting the acquittals of two U.S. soldiers whose armored vehicle killed two teenage Korean girls in a road accident. As the zeal led to the presidential election last year, I came to the conclusion that I could no longer remain a confused onlooker. So I have become an admirer of youth. For not only have I discovered the greatness of youth for the first time in my life, I have also felt it.

When has the power of youth been exhibited in such dignified and splendid ways, without a single drop of blood and the slightest bit of malice?

At least for all grown-ups on this peninsula, the word "youth" did not mean anything special. Adults have simply dismissed the term as being about romance or childishness.

But the youth movement that began in June 2002 is totally different. And that power exploded with the election of a new, young president in De-cember. It is no exaggeration to call it an explosion. The tension between the supporters of the two rival election camps was so high that they seemed to be ready to kill each other at any time. How could such strong sentiments disappear as soon as the presidential race ended in a victory of a team backed by young people?

I came to realize so many things amid the quiet after the election. And I have changed. For instance, I was reluctant to even touch a computer because I believed it was a machine that would destroy humanity. But now, I fully understand and support the computer that my 13-year-old daughter uses every day.

I changed my thoughts when I heard the accounts of how young people united thro-ugh the Internet during the last couple of days of the presidential campaign. For the first time, I expressed my support for youth and innovation. For the first time, I took a full U-turn toward youth. Before I knew it, I uttered, "Oh, this must be yusin!"

Believe it or not, I experienced yusin all by myself. If yusin did not reform the old system within me and make it new, what can it be? From now on, my yusin will be valid until the day when the old beats the young. Yusin and culture are synonymous.

* The writer is a popular singer.

by Jo Young-nam

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