[VIEWPOINT]Let’s take flight again this yearHave you ever heard about the fable of a hawk’s life? It is said that a hawk must decide its future after living 40 years ― whether to die of old age or to live 30 years longer by transforming itself in a conspicuous way.
When a hawk decides to transform itself, it flies over to a cliff and perches on a rock. It starts to sharpen its dull old beak by rubbing it against a rock. Then the hawk picks out its old rugged wing feathers one by one with the sharpened beak and it also extracts old crooked talons with great effort, as if rooting out teeth. It is said that strong and resilient feathers and sharp talons grow out 100 days after that. The hawk that succeeded in transforming itself in this way soars into the sky again. And the bird lives another 30 years with new feathers and new claws.
We are now in the year 2007. South Korea stands on the edge of a cliff, as a hawk does. We must decide whether to die of old age as an old hawk does, or to transform ourselves and soar into the sky once again. Will the South Korea that succeeded in industrialization, democratization and entering into the information age stop its growth here, or make another leap forward?
The year 2007 is the year when the 17th presidential term of the Republic of Korea will begin. It is the year when we must soar into the sky from the edge of a precipice by electing the right person as president. South Korea is now standing on the brink.
First, it is the brink of diplomacy. In the diplomatic arena of the world and Asia, South Korea has taken a road to isolation. Second, it is the brink of national security. Although South Korea is exposed to the threat of nuclear weapons, a strange kind of safety awareness that “we will not be attacked” has been instilled in the minds of Koreans. Third, we now stand on the brink of a long-term economic recession. Our economy reels along like an anemic person because economic circulation has slowed down. Fourth, we are on the brink of unemployment. The right to work is a basic human right. Fifth, we now stand on the brink of losing law and order. Criminals sneer at law enforcement authorities and demonstrators scoff at public power. Sixth, the dignity of people’s daily life is onthe brink. Honorific expressions have disappeared in our daily conversations and rude talk has devastated human relations. Seventh, the family system is on the brink too. A low birth rate, separated family members due to the education of children overseas, high rates of divorce, aged people living alone and young children who have to take care of their families are rampant in our society. The traditional family system that sustained Korean society is turning into an empty nest.
The spirits of time in the year 2007 are growth, integration and communications. If we compare them to the human body, the growth is like our bones, the integration is like the flesh and the communications are equivalent to the nervous system. We must soar into the sky from the edge of a cliff by using the bones of growth, the flesh of integration and the nervous system of communications as our wings.
South Korea has been staying at the age of per capita income of $10,000 since 1995. It took six years for Japan, which has much larger population, to enter into the era of per capita income of $20,000. Singapore took five years and the United States achieved it after 10 years. The period of stagnant income has lasted 12 years. Will Korea’s economic growth stop here?
No, it shouldn’t. We must find a breakthrough and a new growth engine. We must survive, achieve growth and soar again. The 12-year stagnant growth period happened when the alienation among the people and the destruction of social integration progressed rapidly in our society. Our sense of public values has disappeared and the whole society is dominated by the greed of individuals and cliques. The people’s peace of mind is constantly disturbed by the noise of mobile phones and loud chatting. People do not mind behaving as if they were in their living rooms.
The destruction of public welfare is like devastating a mountain with random logging. The damage from floods every year are the expenses the public must pay. In this year 2007, let’s declare the transformation and the great flight of the Korean people! In order to soar into the sky, let’s restore our growth potential with patience, achieve integration by forgiving others and restore communication through dialogue.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chun Young-gi