[Viewpoint]Winning and losingFor much of the time since our liberation from Japanese colonial rule 63 years ago, we Koreans have led a hard life, looking ahead and building our future. We have gone through a whirlwind of change as we have moved from an agrarian to an industrial and now an information society.
Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the past, we have succeeded in developing the Korean economy to its current rank of 12th place in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund.
We have also achieved a high degree of openness and democracy during this time. It is indeed the sweat and struggle of our people that have enhanced our quality of life.
For some time, however, we have known that Koreans have also acquired some undesirable character traits through this period. This is our habit of hating to lose and belittling those who do. This tendency of victory at any cost leads to an unwillingness to acknowledge one’s defeat. This seems exceptionally pronounced in politics, perhaps, because so much is at stake, especially when running for president.
In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Al Gore lost the election, even though he won over 540,000 votes more than George W. Bush. However, he accepted the election results, retreating for the the good of the nation and to defend the value of democracy.
Koreans have also seen a similar attitude in the recent Grand National Party primary to choose a presidential candidate. We have finally witnessed, after such a long time, a politician’s generous political concession.
Today, we are in a fiercely competitive knowledge-based information age in which only the first- place winner can survive. It is something like the way Neil Armstrong is remembered for experience as an Apollo 11 astronaut.
Three astronauts were aboard Apollo 11 when it became the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon in 1969. However, only Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, is remembered. The world seems to be in an age of competition, where only first place is remembered.
In order to win the fierce international competition among many strong countries, it is necessary for the entire nation to be united ― just as all Koreans embraced each other during the 2002 World Cup.
This is the year when we will elect a new president to guide the nation. Each political party is holding events to decide its own winner and losers.
I sincerely hope these events demonstrate political grace, with the winners consoling the losers and the losers acknowledging the winners.
Furthermore, I truly hope a “culture of consolation and submission” will take root in our soil as a result of the accumulated actions of such politicians.
More than anything else, the people will look up to a person who can accept defeat with a pure heart. Korean society needs such political heroes. Through them, the nation will be revived and the people will rejoice.
*The writer is a professor of law and director of academic affairs at Yeungnam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Yong-ho