[Viewpoint]Car-free day should take a hike

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[Viewpoint]Car-free day should take a hike

We can live as long as the distance we can walk on foot. Human beings can survive as long as they can walk.
This is not the medical opinion of a doctor, but a truth we have learned through our own experience. Walking on one’s own feet is important and significant for us as human beings.
If we walk every day, the functions of our body get optimized. Various functions of the human body are based on the assumption that we are moving about on foot.
The first characteristic that distinguishes human beings from other creatures is the fact that humans can walk standing erect.
Homo erectus, or “upright man,” was the first of the genus Homo to walk on two hind legs, keeping its spine erect.
The Homo erectus could then use his hands more freely and was able to evolve to the Homo faber, or “man the maker,” creating things with their hands.
In addition, the brain and intelligence of the human race developed quickly, helped by the endless repetitions of the trial and error of making and breaking things.
Eventually, the genus Homo evolved to become Homo sapiens, or “wise man.”
The history of the human race is condensed in the simple fact that human beings can walk on foot. That skill, which we consider to be an easy job, explains why human beings are the lord of all creatures. If the human race was not able to walk, it could not have evolved to become a Homo sapien.
It heralds a tragedy to the human race, but humans are gradually losing interest in taking a walk.
The automobile, more and more, makes us avoid walking. The motor vehicles that were developed in the 19th century were the best merchandise people could buy in the 20th century.
Although cars are still considered one of the most useful consumer products of the 21st century, we are burdened with the task of harmonizing the use of vehicles with the high ideals of human life.
Automobiles not only harm people’s health with exhaust gas and traffic accidents, but also undermine people’s health gradually by encouraging them to walk less.
Of course, the automobile is not the problem itself.
The problem is the force of habit of people who insist on driving, even for a short distance, when they could easily go on foot.
But there is no alternative left for us now. If you want to live longer, you must get out of your car and take a walk. You will live a much longer life and lose more weight the more you walk.
And if everyone joins you, the air quality will get that much better.
In fact, for people who walk around every day, it must be vexing to hear words like this.
The problem lies with the people who think they cannot live a single day without a car. Many of them are in high positions in our society. Whether they are presidents or chairmen of big businesses, they should get out of their cars and walk.
I suggest they go to their offices without riding in a car once or twice a week. I would also like to suggest that they change their habit of taking a car and a driver to a restaurant when they could walk there within five minutes.
This is not for the convenience of other people, but for your own health.
A servant who worked in the fields carrying heavy things on his back all day lived a much healthier life than his master, who rode in a palanquin or a cart.
Today is “car-free day,” as designated by the Seoul city authorities. For those who go to work by public transportation or on foot everyday, the “car-free day” must be rather vexing and troublesome.
They worry that the “car-free day” will cause more trouble to them because it will make the subways and buses congested with many more people.
For working couples who have to walk their children to the house of their spouse’s parents instead a daycare center by car before they go to work, it will be a troublesome, or even frustrating and disastrous day.
For all that, if the people in high positions, such as presidents and the chairmen of big businesses, travel comfortably in chauffeur-driven cars and move quickly on the car-free streets of Seoul avoiding streets not allowing traffic, such as Jongno, what good is a “car-free day”? Ordinary people who take public transportation will heap abuse on the city government.
As long as the “car-free day” is designated as a once-a-year event, it will be the only day that ordinary people are inconvenienced; a day citizens who normally travel by public transportation will have to avoid going out; or a hopeless day for parents who have no alternative means.
Therefore, the “car-free day” as an event should, although it sounds paradoxical, be abolished as soon as possible.
Instead, I wonder whether it will be necessary to induce people to get out of their cars and use public transportation.
I think it is necessary to lead them to change their daily routine in a revolutionary way, so they can enjoy the pleasure of taking a walk and the leisure of slowing down and enjoying a more romantic way of life.
This is a task of eco-leadership that Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon should resolve.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Chung Jin-hong
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