[OUTLOOK]Embrace our dynamic reputationThe 2006 FIFA World Cup will soon start. South Koreans were filled with confidence during the 2002 finals in Korea and Japan. We then had a slogan, “Dreams come true.”
In 2002, we voluntarily staged supporters’ massive gatherings on the street. By this, we showed a strong power of unity and had enormous fun.
This trait of Koreans surprised the world and boosted our pride.
Had we thought of such behavior as part of our natural character as Koreans?
We had thought that we were the type that even when we were unjustly treated, did not talk about it out loud or complain, but kept it buried deep in our hearts.
We also thought that Koreans had an inferiority complex and believed we were not competent and were behind other nationalities.
However, such harsh feelings or inferiority complexes were hard to find during the last FIFA World Cup, even when we lost the semi-final.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Korea achieved such rapid development it surprised the world. We also survived the 1998 financial crisis with dynamism and a strong spirit.
Korea is a country of dynamism and merriment.
Our ancestors enjoyed dancing and singing, even when times were rough. They transformed hardship into dynamism and excitement. They wore smiles like on hahoe masks.
Our dynamism and merriment peaked at that moment in 2002 when we became one.
That is because Korean culture values relationships, which emphasize the “we” rather than the “I.”
Koreans have long had a communal culture, which put the emphasis on the unity of groups or communities. Therefore, we show more explosive energy when we form a group than when we are separated as individuals.
When we bring positive meaning to ourselves, our dynamism and merriment strengthen even further.
When an individual brings positive meaning to his group, that person can exercise his competence to the full. In an experiment, the members of one sports team were given the idea that they were a bad team with a weak sense of teamwork.
Members of the other team were told to believe they were a superb team with a strong sense of unity. The two teams had a match.
As a result, the team with the positive spirit performed better, although the two teams had little difference in their actual competence.
The positive perceptions of one group and its members’ belief that they could achieve more resulted in a good performance.
Whether we view our nation as a “Korea of dynamism and merriment,” or a “Korea with resentment and an inferiority complex,” such phrases can have an enormous influence on our performance.
In a psychological study, subjects were divided into three groups. Members of two of the groups were subliminally exposed to the words “rude” and “polite,” respectively.
Members of the third group were not exposed to any words.
All the subjects were told to listen to each others’ conversations and to interrupt if they wanted to.
Although the subjects did not remember they had seen the words, 67 percent of the people who had seen the word “rude” interrupted other people’s conversations.
Among those who had seen the word “polite,” only 16 percent, the smallest percentage of all three groups, interrupted while others talked.
Consciousness is always in action, making us act according to our thoughts or beliefs.
When we believe that we are competent people, we do certain acts which reveal such competence and thus perform well.
In this upcoming World Cup, we can reveal our own competence as we did in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
If we retain the positive beliefs that we showed during the last World Cup and encourage ourselves, we will be able to overcome the problems in politics and economics that we are facing now.
The world recognizes Korea as a nation of dynamism and excitement and Koreans as the people who have those same traits. Now is the time for us to embrace this reputation.
* The writer is a professor of psychology at Seoul National University.
by Kwak Keum-joo