[Letter to the editor]Our society needs death educationThis year saw the suicide of two celebrities. According to statistics, Korea has the highest number of suicides out of all the member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with approximately 12,000 deaths per year. The lost lives bring undeniable pain to relatives and friends.
When a young celebrity takes his/her own life, it is splashed all over the press. Despite the fact that suicide leads to economic costs and broken homes, the issue is dealt with in a populist way.
There is no discussion about the fundamental problems of suicide. In fact, people seem to be disinterested. The social taboo of death makes the issue of suicide a relative and personal problem. But as French anthropologist Emile Durkheim said, suicide is more than a personal problem; it is a social problem that comes from loose public morals and a collapse of social bonds. Therefore, suicide is a social disease that requires sustained social interest.
Several developed countries in Europe and the United States have started death education that goes beyond the elementary level and is carried out by the government. Korea also needs to take an interest in death education. Death education seeks to overcome the extreme choice of death. Suicide is not a panacea that solves everything. Your life belongs to you, but you do not live by yourself. No matter how hard your personal or social life is, death does not solve your problems. It renders your life worthless and gives immense pain to the people you love. In spite of this, Korean society hinders the healthy recognition of death.
Death education allows people to naturally recognize death for what it is ― that death is not something you choose at a moment of emotional destitution, that it is a part of our lives. Death education aims to make people understand that to live well is to die well, and to die well is to live well. Korea must implement death education and systematize it as lifelong education from elementary school to education for the elderly.
Kang Dong-gu, a professor at the Buddhism Graduate School of Dongguk University
Liberalization applies to people, too
South Korea and the United States have two pressing issues that have to do with liberalization. One of them is the free trade agreement now under negotiation and the other is the Korean visa exemption issue. Both of these issues have much to do with the concept of liberalization. The current trend in world trade is revitalization of trade through the free flow of currency. The current world economy champions openness, so all countries these days are considering free trade as the most important issue at hand. Movements to systematize this trend are embodied in international organizations such as the World Trade Organization. FTAs are being considered as a mechanism of regional integration.
The Korea-U.S. FTA is under negotiation because both sides need it. It must be worked through constructively despite the many criticisms surrounding it; the fact is that we trade under a free world economy. Instead of rejecting it we must aggressively search for ways to solve the problems. This FTA’s fundamental principles lie in liberalization.
With the free movement of currency we must think about the free movement of human resources. Of course, the United States has national immigration policies. After 9/11, the U.S. has kept immigration policies under strict control. But it would be a huge waste of direct and indirect costs to require visas for Koreans who wish to enter the U.S. just because the visa rejection rates for Koreans are not stable. This is especially so given that the two countries are working toward an FTA.
If the U.S. really intends to have free trade through an FTA, it needs some change in its human resources policies. Instead of postponing visa exemptions for Korea under the pretext of an irregular rejection rate, the U.S. should show some leniency by reducing the rate of rejection altogether.
Kim Jin-hwan, a trade professor at Korea National Open University