[Viewpoint] Supporting our success stories

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[Viewpoint] Supporting our success stories

We thank our young men and women who performed so admirably at the Winter Olympics. Our hearts swelled with pride as they skated across the ice wrapped in our national flag. We were grateful that we share their land. They raised our country’s flag and spoke our country’s name to the world even though we paid them little attention before the Olympic Games.

Our hearts ached when tears brimmed in their eyes as they stood on the podium. What hardship they must have been through to get to that position. We cannot imagine the amount of sweat they must have shed to get those powerful legs. They have endured immeasurable tension and pressure at such young ages.

We are just overwhelmed with gratitude for all of their toil and pain. We confess childish anticipation for news on medals as we turned on the TV. To the generation to whom the Winter Games were mostly considered an event for wealthy countries, the past weeks of excitement and drama of our own in Vancouver is still beyond belief. Have we gotten that far? Are we already in the ranks of countries others envy? It isn’t our doing. It’s thanks to the young athletes who have put our name on par with North American and European countries.

I cannot help feeling indebted to the young athletes. Every time they won a medal, I was grateful and joyous, but at the same time felt a lump in my throat. It isn’t just that they helped to generate an invisible economic value of over 6 trillion won in the country’s brand through their stellar performance.

We were as astonished as the world audience to witness the potential of our country. We are no longer the Koreans of yesterday. We are home to world-class athletes. But do we deserve the distinction? While our young athletes were training long hours to bolster our country’s name, the rest of adult society had been busy fighting over Sejong City. Samsung Group is reported to have sponsored skating sports with more than 10 billion won over the last 10 years. We are indebted to the corporate sponsor for silently supplementing the public role.

We think we are on our own, but in fact we are all so intricately linked. We live in a community. Why are we overwhelmed with joy when we see our flag rising? It is because we identify with the flag and feel as if we are at the top of the world as well. A community is like a family. If one member excels, the other members share the praise.

When Samsung, Hyundai and LG perform well, corporate ratings of other Korean companies also go up. When a country is deemed world-class, its people are also considered as such. People of wealthier countries earn more than those of a poorer country. Individual worth often depends on a person’s country of origin. A country may be considered advanced when many of its people owe much to their government.

The workplace is like this, as well. When a company does well, society sees its employees in a better light. The more capable an individual, company or country, the greater the benefits become to other members of the community. We greatly recognize top athletes, but are less appreciative of talent in other fields. A skater can reach the summit of his or her career through 10 years’ hard training. But other fields sometimes require a lifetime before a practitioner reaches the pinnacle.

We must applaud all of those who strive to be the best in their field. Their efforts do not end in a generation. Descendants benefit from great ancestors. We live comfortably today because of the efforts and sacrifices by earlier generations. We must feel obliged to those who have gone before and made the road easier for us.

Two kinds of humans exist in this world. One feels deprived and cheated, while the other feels obliged. The former is a skeptic and the latter an optimist. The former can spread conflict and struggle in society. The latter spurs cooperation and mutualism. Communists provoked the former for their revolution, but failed. Human society in essence cannot survive without people helping one another. A society educated to fight and protest will eventually fall to ruins. We must teach ourselves to live with each other. We must build a community where we share our neighbor’s joy and sorrow as if it were our own.

We should not depend on the thin shoulders of Kim Yu-na to enjoy a world ranking. We cannot forget the joy she and her peers brought us just because the Games are over. We must pay them back.

How? We simply should go on cheering - not periodically, but always - those who try their utmost and excel in their field. We must live feeling indebted to our forerunners and try to do the same for those coming behind us. Then one day we may find ourselves all at the top.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Moon Chang-geuk
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