[OUTLOOK]Let’s revive a proud national spiritAccording to news reports, the municipal government of Leipzig, Germany, thanked Korean soccer fans. The gratitude was shown toward the 15,000 Korean supporters who stayed behind after the World Cup match against France on June 19 at the Leipzig Zentralstadion to clean up the stands from which they had watched the game.
The news was satisfying, but far from surprising to me. Koreans are renowned for keeping order, helping each other and possessing a strong sense of pride in the past.
With established public morals like hyangyak, literally translated as community code, and farmer cooperative groups, Koreans are able to self-regulate themselves through familiar moral behavior without having to rely on codified laws. There have been times in the past that we have neglected our excellent tradition. Some might say that the phenomenon is the natural result of modernization, where rationalism and individualism are the mainstream trends.
But there is something that we must reconsider. The rationalism and individualism of the West, which developed the machine civilization and spread the atomized family system faster than other areas of the world, helps them keep order and protect the socially vulnerable. Their ideas are by no means based on the sacrifice of the weak or disorderly selfishness.
Although in some cultures, including Korea’s, it may seem harsh, even elementary school students in the United Kingdom and United States are reprimanded regardless of their age if they exercise violence upon their fellow pupils or disrupt order during class.
Warnings are given out to the parents of first-time offenders and students are not allowed to attend class if they fail to show signs of improvement. If that discipline proves to be ineffective, students are suspended from school and those who still do not improve are eventually expelled.
Some might think that such measures are too severe for seven and eight year olds, but parents do not raise objections when the decisions are made. Instead, they reeducate their children so that they can be reaccepted to school at a later time.
Lying beneath the system is the belief that the problems with violent and disorderly children are not limited to the child, but that toleration of violence in classrooms will give students the impression that violence is acceptable and eventually increase social violence. Rationalism and individualism along with strong discipline maintain and manage society in their own way.
Of course, strict punishment can’t be the sole solution for all matters. Self-regulated maintenance of order is most desirable. That’s why the news from Leipzig is a good sign that the beautiful national spirit Korea once forgot is on its way back.
Acting without consideration of others in public, recklessly using public property and fighting over small matters is not a true picture of Koreans.
In my opinion, people who fail to keep order in public and use their age to their advantage when younger people point out their flaws are examples of the worst combination of distorting traditional values with an introduced individualism from abroad.
It is wrong to claim one’s personal rights when one fails to abide by social rules and is not ashamed of their actions. Let’s not forget that we are wonderful people who possess a proud tradition of having self-regulation.
Right now is the time to correct the misled individualism that we have accepted, revive the wonderful tradition that we almost forgot and create a beautiful and proud national spirit.
* The writer is a professor of Law at Konkuk University.
by Choi Yoon-hee