[OUTLOOK]Roh’s culture of darknessWhen he looked back at data from the 1960s, Samuel P. Huntington, the author of “The Clash of Civilizations,” was stunned to find that Ghana and Korea were the same size economically. The two countries had similar gross domestic products and similar development in industries. The two produced similar goods and even received similar amounts of foreign aid.
Mr. Huntington became curious ― why did two countries with such similar economies become so different 40 years later? Korea had become the world’s 10th or 11th largest economy, while the Ghanaian economy is only one-fifteenth the size of Korea’s. He theorized that this was due to their different cultures. Koreans are hard-working and frugal, value education, have discipline and order and invest in their future. But Ghanaian culture does not share these attributes. He submitted the findings in his paper, “Cultures Count.”
Koreans have long been credited as having these traits. Thanks to this culture and spirit, we have become as prosperous as we are today. Koreans believed that we could succeed and were eager to be better off. These passions made it possible for us to advance and develop.
However, if I were asked whether these optimistic and positive thoughts still remain in our hearts, I’m not sure if I would be so quick to say yes. Our culture is subtly transforming. Since the Roh Moo-hyun administration came to power, the values we appreciated have often lost meaning or even become seen as bad and something we need to abandon. The worst part of President Roh’s misrule is that it has damaged our healthy culture and good mentality.
The administration recently released a welfare package program called “Vision 2030.” This plan stated that in 25 years, our economy would advance and our per capita income would be more than $40,000. People will not then need to worry about food, housing, or medical and educational fees. People will not need to worry about money for child care or for life after retirement. This sounds like a dream country. But what would individuals need to do if their country does everything for them? Who would want to work? If nobody works hard, how can a country be sustained? Who would pay taxes? This plan presents a socialist utopia. History has proven that this kind of country does not exist.
People need to be told, “This is not good enough. We should work even harder,” “Everybody should be even more frugal and invest more,” “Everybody should take responsibility for their work” and “People should organize toward a single goal.” However, this administration has promoted the exact opposite of our cultural values. The administration has focused on the past instead of the future. It has divided people when it should be integrating them. It has valued distribution rather than production. It has ridiculed hard-working people. It has targeted the rich, as if it prefers that a larger number of people become poor together.
Look at the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union or at the government’s education policy. It does not reach out to talented or competitive people. The measure is aimed at lowering the average population’s capacities.
The government does not try to make people independent, but instead is making people dependent on the country under the guise of welfare. Government officials do not take responsibility for their wrongdoings but instead pass the blame onto others. This morbid culture is widespread in our society.
This administration has also made a mockery of graciousness and good manners. It has regarded good manners as a sign of hypocrisy by conservatives or the rich. The president and his close aides engage in vulgar rhetoric. Government officials are reported to have said such things as “The highway or my way? I’ll send you to the highway,” or “I’ll show what I’m made of.” Distorted and bad intentions have become the norm, rather than right and fair things. The government has even promoted a dark culture. Sea Story, the gambling arcade game business, is a form of dark culture. The government has led people to gambling and to dreams of earning a fortune at a stroke, instead of building a fair society where hard-working people are duly rewarded.
We are in a cultural crisis now. This crisis is a more essential and crucial problem than an economic crisis or a national security crisis. Unless this morbid culture is transformed into a healthy and fair culture, no more advancement and prosperity are expected. We should not forget about the facts in history that a country’s collapse starts on the inside.
* The writer is the chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk