[VIEWPOINT]Teaching the value of materialism

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[VIEWPOINT]Teaching the value of materialism

Donald Trump, the American billionaire real estate developer, emphasizes the importance of letting children know the value of a dollar.
He once said that not letting children know the value of a dollar was as bad as not feeding them a proper meal, and that someone who does not know the value of a dollar can never be rich, can never get by, even if he had a million dollars in his hand.
Nowadays, the exchange rate for the Korean won is around 962 to the dollar. The buying rate is about 980 won per dollar; the selling rate is about 945.
However, when we ask people to choose between having one dollar or 1,000 won, most people prefer the former.
It is because people think for some reason that the value of the U.S. dollar is greater than that of the Korean won. Of course, one of the reasons for that can be the fact that the U.S. dollar is a key currency in the world. But I wonder whether the differences in the attitude between teaching the value of a dollar on one hand and not teaching the value of 1,000 won on the other have mattered to a large degree.
The richest man in Hong Kong is Li Ka-shing. He once dropped a dollar while stepping out of his car at a golf club. He bent forward to pick up the bill, but it flew out of reach. A staff member at the golf club swiftly stooped under the car to pick it up and handed it to him politely.
Lee Ka-shing then gave him $200, saying, “If it is not my money, I won’t touch it, even if someone had left $1,000 in front of my house. But if the money is mine, I always pick it up, even if it’s only one dollar.” In compensation for picking up such a precious single dollar bill, Mr. Lee paid the man 200 times more as a token of his appreciation. Mr. Lee, it seems, is a man who learned the value of a dollar through personal experience.
Then in order to teach the value of one dollar, what should we do? The best thing is to give children jobs to do so that they can make money on their own. If they earn money by working hard, they can learn the value of a dollar through personal experience.
Madeleine Albright, the U.S. secretary of state during the Clinton administration, once worked at a shop selling women’s underwear, earning a dollar an hour, before she went to university. She confessed that she could never forget the day when she received her paycheck for the first time in her life. She learned the value of a dollar by sweating and working hard.
So do we teach our children the value of 1,000 won nowadays? Otherwise, do they learn and understand the value of 1,000 won through their own efforts?
Unfortunately, we have seldom taught our children the value of 1,000 won and our children have never been so hungry as to have to learn the value of 1,000 won on their own. In Korean society ― for both adults and children ― 1,000 won is nothing but small change to spend on odds and ends.
The only time we might use 1,000 won is when we pay a tip for valet parking in Gangnam, southern Seoul. But in the Cheongdam-dong area of Seoul, even the tip for valet parking is 2,000 won.
Nowadays, while the older generation is busy discussing the issue of transfering wartime control of South Korean troops back from the United States, the younger generation is busy with the controversy over doenjangyeo, bean-paste women.
“Doenjangyeo” is a word coined by Internet users that has spread widely and rapidly over the Internet. It refers to women who do not have much money but insist on buying fine articles at upscale boutiques and dining at luxury restaurants at the expense of rich men or with money from their parents.
We can hear voices of protest from women that it is not fair to designate only women with such an unpleasant word, but it is also true that the number of these women is so high that it has created controversy. I wonder whether it is vital for doenjangyeo to learn the value of 1,000 won.
Of course, there are always the gochujangnam, or pepper-paste men, who act poor and look miserable.
We have also learned from the big fuss over “Vincent & Co.” fake watches that there should be a standard with which we can judge whether articles for sale are what they are advertised to be.
I wonder whether the people who judge these goods should be those who know the value of 1,000 won.

* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Jin-hong
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