In a crisis, as in life, creativity is the key

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In a crisis, as in life, creativity is the key

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Until the late days of the Republic, the Romans had armies of citizens. In order to command the soldiers, the authorities prepared detailed military field manuals. These elaborate field manuals were the key driving force that helped the Romans take over neighboring peoples. The soldiers were not punished for losing a battle, but for not following the manual.

The most notable society that relies on manuals today is Japan. Its manual-oriented corporate culture is considered an important factor in its rapid economic growth. But there are considerable problems associated with such blind bureaucracy. Japan’s manuals contain plans for natural disasters, including earthquakes, but when foreign governments sent relief supplies after the earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region earlier this year, the Japanese government did not have a manual on how to handle the goods, so they were not delivered promptly. Moreover, the manual did not state that nuclear reactors could be cooled with seawater, and the delayed response to the nuclear crisis worsened the situation.

Last Thursday, the Korea Power Exchange, which is under the Korea Electric Power Corporation, temporarily cut power supplies for major cities, as electricity demand reached a peak due to high daytime temperatures. The measure led to a nationwide blackout. Now, there is debate over whether KPX should have made an announcement before cutting the power and whether it neglected the manual or made an inevitable choice because of an outdated manual. I wonder if the manual describes ways to publicize emergency measures to citizens through broadcasts or the Internet. Meanwhile, KPX has absurdly blamed citizens for not conserving energy when people were not informed about the suspended operation of 23 power plants.

Since those in charge of the power supply can make decisions based on the circumstances, rather than relying on a manual, they need to explain why they made the decisions they did. They also need to state why their manual is so outdated when it is updated every year.

At the time of the Tohoku earthquake, workers at Tokyo Disneyland improvised to comfort visiting children by pretending to be “guardian angels.” They received disaster response training every other day. They were also reminded not to be overly attached to their training manual and to respond to a crisis with flexibility and creativity. That is good advice for us all.

*The writer is a culture and sports writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Kang Hye-ran
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