[EDITORIALS]Winter of our discontent

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[EDITORIALS]Winter of our discontent

Every year we greet the last month of the year with a certain sense of regret, but this year’s December seems all the more gloomy. In fact, it seems like the gloomiest December since 1997, when we were hit by the financial crisis.
Behind this dark cloud of gloom looms the nuclear situation in North Korea. The people of North Korea will face yet another long winter of cold and hungry days. Their misery will be aggravated by sanctions imposed by international society as a consequence of the regime’s nuclear ambitions. Sadly, there are also cold and hungry people in the South. For low-income and homeless families, the first signs of winter this year were accompanied by news of skyrocketing rental fees. Even Korea’s achievement of reaching 300 billion dollars in exports is “someone else’s news” to these families.
Our president’s leadership failures are crippling our country’s future. Park Tae-joon, the legend behind Posco’s success, recently lamented that never had Korean society fallen into such a chronic state of lethargy. Governments are created to meet the needs of the people, but our president and ruling party are only interested in squabbling among themselves. Some people have resorted to violence to protest their hardships. Police officers and soldiers, barely grown-up young men, are being attacked with bamboo spears and steel pipes at protest rallies. The rallies even hinder the businesses of taxi drivers and restaurant owners, most of whom are also low-income citizens who have to worry about daily living conditions. This is the chilly portrait of Korea in this dismal December, 2006.
But there is still hope. Optimism lies with the majority of the Koreans, who are keeping their faith in the future with silent endurance. As soon as December is over, the preparations for next year’s presidential election will begin. Both the governing party and the opposition will start their campaigns. We will soon start talking about new leadership. There is reason for hope in these cold, gloomy days that our nation may soon see a new spring over at the beleagured Blue House.
In the meantime, our hearts are warmed by the ordinary heroes of Korea, such as a woman who recently donated 40 million won ($40,000) to charities for the poor. This elderly woman had suffered as a sex slave under Japanese imperial rule and had then earned her living cleaning other people’s houses and collecting scraps. She had raised what, for her, was a fortune, by saving her welfare benefits. Whenever a newspaper publishes a story of a neighbor in need, we can still expect people to call in to offer donations, however small. This may be the winter of our discontent, but the warm hearts of these people let us know that our society still has hope.
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