Season for sharingChuseok can be considered a holiday of communication, as tens of millions of Koreans travel home to spend time and catch up with their families and relatives.
Much of the talk during these gatherings centers on the big issues of the day.
In 2006, it was North Korea’s efforts to test a nuclear weapon. In 2007, it was the fake Yale diploma scandal involving Shin Jeong-Ah, a Dongguk University professor at the time. In 2008, it was the serious financial situation many people found themselves in amid the global financial crisis. Last year, it was the revision of the Sejong City project and the economic recovery.
This time around, you can bet talks at the dinner table will focus on President Lee Myung-bak’s vision of creating a “fair society” and his pro-working class policies.
With the administration ramping up next year’s welfare budget by a whopping 5 trillion won ($4.3 billion), lawmakers from the opposition Democratic Party are also hastily making promises to support pro-welfare and pro-working class policies ahead of the race for new party leadership in early October.
In line with the idea of fairness and pro-working class policies, politicians are increasingly stressing the importance of “sharing” this Chuseok. President Lee created a public fund by donating 30 billion won worth of support from his own pockets and diverting millions of won from his monthly salary to various charities.
But these moves only scratch the surface of the issue.
More important is the implementation of reforms and systems across our society. According to a recent survey of local residents by the JoongAng Ilbo, 73 percent of respondents said Korean society is not fair. Although our leaders - including the president - are trying to take the lead in diffusing the spirit of fairness and sharing, a majority of people still feel frustration and deprivation as a result of a decades-old social structure that is widely regarded as unfair.
The collapse of the public education system, for example, has led to unfair competition in the private education market. This then translates into frustration when it comes to the college admissions system and, ultimately, affects one’s ability to enter the job market and create a solid family life at home.
Traditionally, Chuseok is also a holiday of comfort. The more frustration people feel, the more they appreciate each other. As we gather to celebrate the holiday once again, we see that sharing and fairness have become the government’s new buzzwords. Instead of just talking about it, however, officials and everyday residents alike should seek out ways to apply these concepts to their own lives.