How just a few can make a difference
It is only natural that good books sell more, but the trend is a bit too extreme. It is representative of Koreans’ so-called “boiling pot” tendency. People follow national trends down to the color of instant noodle soups. Extreme conformity extends to what movies people watch, where they attend school and which stocks they purchase.
This phenomenon was not born yesterday. Shin Chae-ho, a nationalist and independence activist from the early 20th century, deplored, “When someone makes a profit in the rice cake business, the entire village becomes noisy with the pounding sound of mills. In which society do people storm together instantly but fall back all at once? I feel embarrassed to criticize my own country, but I must admit it is the community of Joseon.”
While Shin Chae-ho was critical of the blind following of Koreans, we cannot deny that there is an upside as well. When the oil spill occurred off the coast of Taean, South Chungcheong, in 2007, over one million volunteers came to the area to clean up the contamination. During the financial crisis and IMF bailout in the late 1990s, citizens donated treasured gold rings.
As the ruling party is on the brink of collapse, a first-term lawmaker and the longest-serving representative decided against running for another term. Similar actions are expected to follow among the ruling party politicians. I wonder if their moves will ignite the deeply rooted trend-following tendency once again. For even the wisest person would be swayed by personal and party interests once he becomes a politician. Like best-selling books in the publishing industry, a small number of GNP lawmakers can make the difference.
*The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Hoon-beom