[OUTLOOK] Creating our own social dreamMartin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech, “I have a dream,” on August 28, 1963, almost exactly forty years ago. President Abraham Lincoln had emancipated the slaves in 1863, but even after a century, African-Americans were still suffering from prejudice and segregation. The black civil rights activist commented once that the Emancipation Proclamation was a “bad check which came back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”
But Mr. King believed that the United States, as “the bank of justice,” would never go bankrupt. He believed in American values. He spoke of a simple but desperate dream for suppressed fellow black people, that they would one day live in a nation where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Mr. King emphasized that his dream was “deeply rooted in the American dream.” The American dream is the shared vision based on the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that the founding fathers had carved in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Mr. King’s dream based on the American dream won the support of American citizens regardless of their skin color and has become the foundation of a new America. Mr. King turned racial harmony into a common dream that everyone could respond to. Creating a vision is the core of leadership. Mr. King, revered as a symbol of African-American nonviolent resistance to segregation, addressed American values when he spoke of his dream, and transformed the dream into a vision for the future.
Korean society today is filled with antagonisms as intense as the American racial discord in Mr. King’s time. At one breakfast prayer meeting, the president himself started to count the conflicts in our society, and over 20 confrontations made the list. Korean society is rife with serious disputes: between the two Koreas, within the South, between labor and management, between conservatives and progressive and between regions.
In Daegu, where the 2003 Summer Universiade Games are being played, we see the South-North discord entangled with internal antagonism among South Koreans.
We see intense labor disputes every day. Confrontation over a nuclear waste storage site has created an even bigger crater than a nuclear bomb could make in people’s minds. Meanwhile, the confrontation between the conservatives and the progressive seems endless. The country is in a chronic state of dispute. We feel like the country is falling apart. There is no solution to the discord, and citizens are the victims of the hostility.
After the endless disputes and chaos, Koreans are now immune to shocks, but the aggravated fatigue from the collisions has reached the breaking point. It is about time we created a dream from the ashes of the countless feuds and bring ourselves to the next level. If we are to have a dream that will become a hope and vision benefiting us all, we need to make clear what the dream will be rooted upon.
Mr. King’s dream was based on his heartfelt belief in American values. In order to dissolve the complex discord of our society, we need to start from a strong confirmation on our Korean values.
Whatever our dream may be ― participatory democracy, $20,000 per-capita income or unification ― it should be based on the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, the principles of a market economy and the system of democracy that affirms the legitimacy of the republic. Our dream must be based on Korean values and grow from there.
At any rate, neglecting Korean values is, in effect, denying our roots. We have not been treasuring Korean values. Our constitution, our market, and our national policy deserve more respect. We need to address our core values. Let our dream grow from Korean values. Only then can we leave the chaos behind and take a step forward to a better future.
By Chung Jin-hong
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.