[Viewpoin]To a 9th grader in Gwangju

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[Viewpoin]To a 9th grader in Gwangju

It must be exhausting to study in the summer heat, but endure the weather and keep up the good work. In life, some things have to be done when the time is right, and you can never go back. Studying is one of those activities. The ancient Chinese poet Tao Yuanming wrote, “Youth does not come twice, and a day does not have mornings twice, so you should focus on learning when you are young for time does not wait for man.”
Grownups shouldn’t let students worry about the nation and participate in candlelight vigils when they should be absorbed in their studies. That’s why I am writing this column for you with an apology. After reading your comments on Agora [an anonymous bulletin board on Daum], I was heartbroken. I came across your writing online after it had been picked up by many people. You wrote, “As of yesterday, I have decided to stop planning my life up until the age of 40. I doubt whether I will be able to live into my 40s. On returning home after the hagwon class last night, I watched an episode of “PD Diary” online. All I could feel was the fear of death. It is the fear that it won’t be odd if I go mad and die anytime, anywhere. I am really curious. Why did you vote for Lee Myung-bak? Why did you vote for the Grand National Party? Because of the stupid adults with the right to vote, we, the young without votes, are about to die.”
I guess your frustration and anger must have subsided somewhat. We now know that PD Diary distorted and exaggerated some pertinent facts. Warnings from the translator working on the program went unheeded. So a downer cow was turned into a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and mad cow disease turned into a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease. Protesters, as furious as you, have paralyzed the nation with candlelight for two months. However, now we have learned the truth, people are lining up to buy U.S. beef after the imported meat began to be sold to the public. You wrote, “I vow not to eat cookies, milk, and instant noodles, not just meat. Even if I fall in love, I will not kiss my girlfriend. I will not use lotion or take medicines.” As I watched the popularity of U.S. beef grow, I was relieved that you won’t have to remind yourself of these pledges any more. Moreover, you can rest assured that you won’t have to stop planning for your post-40 life.
Even as I heaved a sigh of relief, my heart lies heavy. It seems that the shadow of hatred that once possessed you is still hovering over Korean society. You were so angry because you thought you were about to die, and it was due to the adults electing the wrong president. But even if the president tried to renegotiate the trade treaty at Camp David, he wouldn’t have imported beef that posed a lethal threat to the people of this country. What could have made a young student so angry to say such harsh words?
Professor of economics Edward Glaeser of Harvard University explains such hatred in the context of supply and demand. You have learned about supply and demand in your class, right? The suppliers of hatred provide warped information to incite extreme loathing toward a certain group. Thus the suppliers can enjoy economic gains by beating off rivals and strengthening their political stance. People buy into the rumor because it costs nothing. Whether a rumor is true or not, there’s no price to pay at first.
However, it’s not the suppliers of hatred who are held accountable in the long run. It is the citizens, or the demand, who have to pay.
And many have already paid the price as individuals, but the burden on the national economy is incomparably heavy.
A lesson from history: Joseph Stalin, who used anti-Semitism as a political tool, said that nothing makes him happier than choosing a prey, executing a well-thought-out plan, relieving his hatred and then going to bed.
You might want to reflect on these words when you get angry. You can then determine who is responsible for this hatred, who will benefit and who will get a good night’s sleep.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hoon-beom

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