A place for young and old alike

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A place for young and old alike

The book “Answers to the Troubled Times” by Kim Young-su contains an interesting analysis of the age of enthronement, reign and lifespan of China’s emperors. In the country’s 5,000-year history, those who are considered as great leaders among some 600 rulers ascended to the throne in their 20s, reigned for about 20 years and died before they reached their mid-50s.

Li Shimin, Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty, is regarded as the greatest ruler in Chinese history, and he rose to the throne at age 28. With outstanding wisdom and diligence, his reign signified the start of China’s golden age.

In comparison, King Sejong, who is praised as the greatest king of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, ascended to the throne at age 22 in 1418, following the abdication of his father, King Taejong. In the early days of his reign, Sejong struggled to maintain a balance between his authority and his father’s control of the court. When his father died four years later, Sejong was finally able to demonstrate his abilities as a ruler.

Today, in both South and North Korea, 20-somethings are at the center of the storm.

In the North, Kim Jong-un, who has assumed the highest position in North Korea after the sudden death of his father, is 27 years old. Though skeptics consider him too young to lead the country, their concerns may be unfounded considering the given historical examples.

In the South, politicians are trying very hard to please young voters. They are worried that young Koreans armed with social networking services may rise against the establishment and start “Occupy 2012” demonstrations.

The media is reporting every word from Lee Jun-seok, the 26-year-old member of the Grand National Party’s emergency leadership council. But his daring and reckless attitude is not necessarily welcomed by everyone. Meanwhile, Charles Pyo, the 27-year-old president of Wizard Works, was appointed as an adviser to the ruling party’s emergency leadership council, but he resigned, saying, “I realized that I should still listen and learn rather than speak.”

At the same time, we have the opposition’s plan to select candidates for proportional representation to the National Assembly among people in their 20s. But it is pathetic that this process has become something like an audition.

Being old is not necessarily a medal of honor, but being young is no privilege either. But no matter their age, both young and old people should know and keep their places.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Bae Myung-bok
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