Yesterday morning, two photos on the third page of the JoongAng Ilbo drew my attention. One was of high school girls visiting the National Assembly for a school activity and the other was of Democrats charging into a conference room and Grand Nationals yelling at them. Usually I would think of the Assemblymen’s behavior as nothing new, but yesterday I wondered why they had become lawmakers in the first place. I remembered what one National Assemblyman once said: “If you become a lawmaker there are 299 more perks than people usually think.”
Another politician who was famous for moving from one political party to another once said he did that because he was suited to be a member of the ruling party. With bills concerning the basic livelihood of the people piling up unattended, the National Assembly hasn’t even handled the budget for next year. It leads me to believe that in order to be fit for the Korean National Assembly, you must be brazen, narrow-minded and selfish.
A year ago, I played golf with professional golfer Shin Ji-yai. This was right after an article came out saying that she never hit her first shot out of bounds in official tournaments. I wanted to see this for myself, so I watched closely. Her first shots were remarkable. She used a driver 14 times and every single shot flew straight down the middle of the fairway. It is not an exaggeration that she is the world’s best when it comes to hitting straight. Shin traveled around the United States, Japan and Korea this year and won 11 tournaments, earning more than 4.2 billion won ($2.8 million).
Shin’s nickname is “Smiling Angel,” as she is always beaming. I asked her if she was always optimistic. She said she was, but she added that she also had a lot of ambition. That was the right answer, I thought. She is optimistic and reserved, and she has an ambition. These are perfect traits for a golfer. On top of this, she is physically strong enough to fly 250,000 kilometers a year and play tournaments. It won’t be long before she becomes one of the best golfers in the world.
Kevin Song is a Korean-American poker player who won the 1997 World Series of Poker. He visited the peninsula recently to give Koreans some advice. “Koreans should try not to gamble,” he said.
While frequenting casinos for some 20 years, Song never made friends, because if things got personal he would lose his composure. If you don’t maintain strict control over yourself and your life, you can’t survive in the world of gambling. Song said that most Koreans are impatient, so they are not very good at gambling. Casinos around the world welcome Korean customers because they are expected to lose money easily and quickly, he explained.
Following the news that TV presenter Kang Byung-kyu lost more than 1 billion won on an Internet gambling site, it was reported that around 10 other professional baseball players were accused of gambling on the Internet. One of them reportedly earned hundreds of millions of won. He probably has more talent at gambling than at baseball.
Koreans take aptitude tests in middle or high school. The results are used as references to see whether they should study liberal arts or sciences. But you get in trouble if the result is different from what people thought it would be.
Ordinary people want to do what they love. They want to become a singer, actor or athlete, and they envy those in the spotlight. Or, they want to make a fortune by investing in stocks or real estate. Hearing news that someone made a fortune, people want to also hit the jackpot in some way. But you should ask yourself: Will I be good at what I want to do? Will it be the right career for me?
If what you want to do and what you are good at coincide, you are the happiest person on earth. Even if they don’t, if you have a career in something that you are good at, or if you do what you want to do as a hobby, you are still a happy person. But if you want to do what you’re not good at, you can make yourself and those around you unhappy. It becomes an even more serious problem if you are a National Assemblyman who represents the people.
The country is facing tough economic times. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is in much worse condition than thought, according to some U.S. analyses. Urgent issues are lining up. It is not the right time for National Assemblymen to be fighting inside the well-heated National Assembly hall.
As they are good at tricks and attacks, they should be doing traditional Korean wrestling. That is the right career for them.
A map of a Korean person’s genome was completed recently. It would be good if we make such a map of National Assemblymen. Politicians who lack the genes to prioritize the people should not be allowed to run to be lawmakers.
The writer is the digital newsroom editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A new epicenter of social conflict
Lessons from a president
Tales of Chairman Lee
Chinese way of tackling challenges
Time to step up climate action