[VIEWPOINT]Keys to leading a cultural life

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[VIEWPOINT]Keys to leading a cultural life

I attended an alumni meeting for the first time in a long while, but all I heard there was that it was tough to make ends meet. Since it seemed that those who were better off made a bigger fuss, I lightly rebuked them with a few remarks. I told them to share what they had earned with needy people and visit arts centers more often to enjoy performances.
At these words, a friend asked with a serious look: How much money on earth do we have to have in our country to feel at ease? In an instant, the upbeat mood was subdued and silence followed for a while. Someone suddenly shouted out, “1 billion won,” but there was not much response to this answer.
As time went by, they began to express their complaints one after another. Most of them were worried about education for their children and security after their retirement. To bear the burden of astronomical expenses for private education or tutoring, they said, they could hardly think of saving money, or they had to sell their house, which they had worked very hard to buy.
If they retired without any savings, they would have trouble right away in paying living expenses, and, what is worse, they would be helpless if they became seriously ill. It was more embarrassing to hear that if they had no house to sell, they would consider moving to a smaller apartment in order to send their children to private educational institutes and tutors, and even cut their grocery bills in order to purchase a whole life insurance policy.
If only they could do away with private education, they said, they would gladly pay tuition fees many times higher than the present level. If only they didn’t need to worry about the cost of medical treatment if they developed serious illnesses, they wouldn’t complain any longer, even if they had to pay higher premiums for their medical insurance plans.
They insisted they would not complain if they could be free of worries over school problems and hospital problems, even if they had to give up half of their salaries. If these problems were solved, they would put aside some money from the remaining half and try to do what they wanted to do. If they didn’t go hungry, they asked, what was the point in trying desperately to buy a house when they didn’t know when it would be possible? Instead of exerting themselves to earn more money, they said they would try to have some time to relax and enjoy life.
Everyone guessed that the president couldn’t solve these problems until now because of a budget shortage. That’s why everyone should be thrifty. Because solutions require a huge amount of money, it may be of little use to lay aside just a few dollars from a paycheck.
Even if we have to wait 10 years after contributing half of our earnings, the president should resolve those problems. We know well why he can’t do so, even though he knows the urgency of the situation. Nobody would believe him if he told the truth now while telling lies previously.
If people happen to believe him but have to wait for more than 10 years, that would be too many years. But we should do what needs to be done even if it takes 100 years. If all the people in our country are concerned about the issues, the president should take the initiative in finding solutions to them. Because this task cannot be accomplished alone, everyone should combine their energy. Even if we cannot see this effort coming to fruition in our lifetimes, our descendants should be able to enjoy the fruits of their lives.
As we live our lives, there are some things that we experience alone and other things that we experience together with others. Also, there are some tasks that should be solved all alone, whereas there are other tasks that should be solved together. If we generally call “culture” all the things that we gain from thinking together and acting together with others in life, a cultural life will be none other than that of “living together.”
Until now, we have thought alone when we should have thought together and have been distressed, all by ourselves, about those problems that we should have solved together with others. If we truly think that living together is a cultural life and believe that it is truly a desirable way of living, we should confide our concerns and worries to others and try to solve them together from now on. In this way, we should be able to reap the fruits of our endeavors.

* The writer is a professor of art administration at the Korean National University of Arts. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Hong Seung-chan
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