[Letters] Kim Gu would be proudShortly after the Korean War, South Korea became one of the world’s poorest countries. After the armistice agreement, the country was home to millions of war orphans and most of its infrastructure was destroyed. During the 1950s, Koreans endured a quality of life that ranked among the lowest in the world.
In order to pass on a more developed and a wealthier country to future generations, Korean parents worked extremely hard, often in factories with hazardous environments. As a result of these efforts, Korea has risen to become the world’s 15th-largest economy with the eighth-largest amount of foreign currency reserves. In addition, the activities of Korean global companies have caused an increase in the power of Korean brands. Korean transnational corporations not only built factories internationally, but they also employed local people.
Furthermore, international organizations, such as the IMF and the World Bank, already classify Korea as a developed country. They point to the decreasing income gap between Korea and the world’s largest economies and the significant drop in emigration - many Koreans, in fact, have been returning to their native country. Although some people still choose to renounce their Korean citizenship in order to avoid military service, the percentage of Koreans located overseas spontaneously enlisting in the Korean military is rising steadily.
Since the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Korea has hosted four global sporting events - only Japan, Germany, France and Italy have hosted all four. In the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup, Korea placed fourth, just as it had in the 1988 Seoul Olympics with Park Ji-sung leading the way. Not only Park, but also many other Korean football players are accomplishing great results in the Premier League. Another international athlete, figure skater Yuna Kim, won the gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and set a world record. It is obvious that Korea now has risen to become one of the strongest countries in the sporting world.
In addition, the Korean Wave is spreading like wildfire. Up until now, it was limited to Asia. However, through the Internet and various other mediums, the Korean Wave is now a significant force in the world. The K-pop concert in Paris surprised most Koreans because the concert tickets sold out in merely minutes.
This was surprising since many Koreans did not even imagine that Korean musicians would gain popularity in Europe. Not only did K-pop gain popularity in Europe, but it has also gained popularity in the rest of Asia and the United States.
Kim Gu, the leader of the Korean independence movement against the Japanese occupation of Korea, comes to mind because at the end of his autobiography, he expressed his desire by saying, “If God asked me what was my wish, I would reply I want our nation to become the most beautiful nation in the world. I do not want our nation to become the richest and the most powerful nation in the world. Because I have felt the pain of being invaded by another nation, I do not want my nation to invade others.
“It is sufficient that our wealth is such that it makes our lives abundant and our military strength such that it is able to repel others’ invasions. The only thing I desire in infinite quantity is the power of a highly developed culture. This is because the power of culture both makes ourselves happy and gives happiness to others.”
I believe that if he were still alive, he would say, “I am so proud all of you.”
Park Min-ki, a student at the University of Alabama in the United States