[OUTLOOK]Korea’s youth has no dreams

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[OUTLOOK]Korea’s youth has no dreams

The College Scholastic Ability Test was held last Thursday and students will now try to get into universities. When interviewing students, I have complicated thoughts and feelings. As students all give similar answers I can’t help but suspect that they have memorized some standardized answers.
That is probably because students memorize answers to possible questions for the test whether they learn them in schools or in private tutoring institutes. But that is not the core of the problem.
When listening to the students being interviewed, nine out of ten sound like good-hearted philanthropists, egalitarians and pacifists.
They say that they would like to sacrifice themselves to help others, or that they would like to live in a world where everybody is equal and happy together.
If they had made up these answers just for the test, that would have been better.
But what is worrisome is that when students say these things they mean them, at least much of it.
If the students said such things because they have different values than the older generations, that would also be okay.
As the current generation enjoys prosperity and values individualities and freedom, it is natural for the young to seek well-being instead of competition and to abandon materialism. But that is not the reason for this trend.
The young are becoming blind hostages to philanthropism, egalitarianism and pacifism in part because the ideology of the democratic movement in the 1980s, which was represented in the Gwangju massacre, has suppressed the modern history of our country for decades.
The youth of our country has distanced itself from ambition, courage and aspiration, which are usually typical characteristics of young people.
They believe that wealth is filthy and power is bad. They think that to become successful is to commit worldly sin and something to apologize about to others. This is an awkward idea.
As our society believes in egalitarianism, it is producing only warm-hearted students who do not excel at anything.
School textbooks are full of anti-elitism. Thus, it is natural that serious students have ill feelings about people who lead and govern the world. Our social atmosphere is the same.
An editor of a daily newspaper that claims to be progressive wrote an article titled “A Letter to Freshmen” at Seoul National University.
In that article, he wrote that he could not send congratulatory messages to them for being accepted to the prestigious school because they were smart or talented or have good backgrounds, as they belong to the high class or leaders’ group of a filthy capitalistic society.
He detested Seoul National University so much he offered shame and guilt, instead of pride, to freshmen who have just entered the university.
To become more successful than others or to advance farther than others is not wrong. Wealth, fame and power are not bad in themselves.
The problem is how to use these means. In a good society, the haves are generous and the have-nots are grateful for that generosity.
In a bad society, the haves do not give, so end up being forced to do so and the have-nots feel hatred and envy, so lose what little they do have. Such a society continues this vicious circle.
The important thing is to produce an ambitious elite that will lead the future of our society. We should teach its members duties and responsibilities while encouraging them to have pride.
As we feel oppressed by the spirit of the 1980s, our youth are losing courage and guts. That is because the administration is busy blaming the past while not looking ahead to the future.
If there is no future to dream of, progressives and left-wingers will also lose ground to stand on.

*The writer is a professor of sociology, graduate school of environment studies at Seoul National University.

by Jun Sang-in

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