[EDITORIALS]The fallacy of luxuryA Korean man was accused of having sold luxury Swiss watches that were actually made with parts from China. He earned 700 million won (about $730,000) selling the watches to celebrities and the rich living in the affluent southern Seoul neighborhood. He sold a watch that cost 3 million won to make for nearly 100 million won.
He told his customers that the watches were purchased by European royal family members. He also sent the watches to Switzerland and imported them back to gain import certificates.
This incident is more than just a case of fraud. It is a case study in vanity and excessive greed, but also a warning about the shallow materialism that is well represented by the word “Gangnam,” the affluent southern area in Seoul.
In a capitalistic society, we cannot blame rich people for spending their money however they want. We do not need to complain that ordinary people feel poorer than they actually are because sales of luxury goods have increased. When times are hard ― as they are these days ― it’s good for the economy to have rich people spending more.
However, people should have more discipline and be a little smarter about spending, even if they are spending their own money. It’s the least rich people can do, as members of society.
Those people who purchased the watches must feel terrible for wasting their money and being cheated. They must feel even worse because ordinary people think they deserve to be fooled and lost a lot of money. But who is innocent enough to blame these people? Don’t we all have a bit of vanity? Most Koreans crave luxury goods. Most luxury brands around the world say their sales would decrease greatly if they were suddenly unable to do business in Korea, particularly in southern Seoul.
An increasing number of new luxury items are sold in Korea, sometimes before any other market. Many companies use our country as a test market for goods. Nowadays, parents even feel their children need to wear at least one luxury good to be accepted. This case is a result of families giving their children bad upbringings.
We should reflect on Friedrich Nietzsche’s saying that vanity comes from the fear of having one’s true self revealed, and that it represents low self-esteem. As we believe our status has risen when we wear luxury items, cases of fraud such as this one are likely to happen more often ― and more easily.