[Letters] Reasons why ‘Justice’ is best seller in Korea

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[Letters] Reasons why ‘Justice’ is best seller in Korea

Harvard professor Michael Sandel’s “Justice” is a best seller in Korea, and the translated edition, which has sold over 1 million copies so far, is still flying off the shelves. In the context of ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s common good, “Justice,” too, emphasizes a simple message of “common good.” The book inspires special enthusiasm among Korean readers as people think that justice in its true sense does not exist in Korea today, even if the situation has improved little by little.

Koreans are afflicted with a culture of elitism in which people without solid backgrounds may be disdained and thus suffer from discrimination and otherwise unfair treatment.

People fear that, if summoned by prosecutors, they may suffer severe mental harassment that makes their lives meaningless, even before questioning the validity of accusations made against them.

Public corporations are operated with taxpayers’ money, but past administrations have distributed the executive positions at public corporations as if they are spoils of war. So, many Korean taxpayers feel that they receive no reward for living frugally and paying taxes diligently.

Rather than believing in the grand premise of liberal democracy that all are equal in the eyes of the law, people think that “the haves” are innocent and “the have-nots” are guilty. The state and large conglomerates are growing bigger and bigger, but individuals’ happiness is not improving.

It may seem that Korea is right on the threshold of the developed world after hosting the G20 summit in Seoul last year and winning the bid to host the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics this year. However, good food and nice clothing do not make a country advanced. Living environment has been prioritized over values, and this is backward - not advanced.

How can Korea become a developed country with dignity and a society with justice? This question is closely related to the choice of political leadership. What are the qualities required by a leader who will bring the country to the next level? Citizens will only respect politicians when the nation’s leader rules in strict accordance with the law while also working to eradicate corruption in government.

And so as many Koreans sincerely crave true justice, 2012 will surely be a year of important decisions as the presidential election and the general election are slated to be held next year.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.


Yu Seong-geun, a visiting professor at Myongji University
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