In search of the Korean Steve Jobs

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In search of the Korean Steve Jobs


As I read “Steve Jobs,” the biography of the Apple founder released on Monday, I felt a shiver go up and down my spine several times. He was rebellious, stubborn and picky. His friends and colleagues described him as having a “reality distortion field,” a term used to describe his charisma and its effect on others. In order to achieve his goals, Jobs rejected and ignored not only reality but also believed that no existing rules applied to him and made seemingly impossible tasks possible.

Jobs denounced the routine life that plays the same music like a turntable. He was not afraid of cannibalization, which refers to the negative impact on sales of existing products when a new product is introduced. He said that if we don’t prey on ourselves, someone else will. He did not conduct market research and believed in Henry Ford’s famous quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” He was a self-contradicting figure who was extremely self-centered and volatile.

A giant like Steve Jobs could thrive because he was in the United States. While growing up, he was no angel. He set off an explosive under the chair of his third grade teacher. When he was in eighth grade, he planted an eavesdropping device in his parents’ bedroom. Yet his parents believed in him and supported his talents and interests. He was into literature, music and Zen Buddhism, and the combination of liberal arts and sciences became the basis of his genius creations.

As I read about Jobs as a business giant, I was reminded of the island rule in evolutionary biology. On the continent, where traits are actively exchanged, organisms of various sizes will survive. On an island, however, the big creatures become smaller and the small ones become bigger. I cannot help but apply the same standard to Korea. Is Korea a continent or an island for talented youth?

Let’s look for the “Korean Steve Jobs” among our children and young adults. When Jobs was in ninth grade, he called William Hewlett, the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, and asked for a missing part for a frequency counter he was building.

What are gifted and talented young Koreans doing today? At the moment, they may be memorizing math equations and vocabulary. Once again, I have a shiver going up and down my spine. Instead, let’s help them discover their true talents and interests.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Noh Jae-hyun
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