Let’s keep it down and enjoy the silence

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Let’s keep it down and enjoy the silence


I recently heard about an incident from a friend who years ago worked for one of Korea’s airlines. At an airport in Europe, two Koreans were talking, and an airport staff member filed a police report because he thought that they were fighting. When the police approached and asked them what was going on, they were completely taken aback. They said, “We were being quiet and whispering to each other.”

Not long ago, a group of Koreans waiting to board at an airport in the United States caused a delay of several hours because they were arguing loudly, with some coming to blows.

I am not trying to exaggerate or generalize. In fact, Koreans’ manners have improved considerably compared to their public behavior in the past. But many of them still have the habit of raising their voices in public places.

A few days ago, I had dinner with a colleague at a restaurant near my office and we couldn’t get through our meal because of the noise. When one diner got drunk and began screaming, my colleague stepped up and demanded that he stop. Thankfully, the drunkard became quiet and ceased to disturb us further.

When you get on a bus or train, you often find passengers talking loudly with one another or on the phone. They are not exactly discussing crucial matters. The conversations mostly concen trivial things that could wait until they get off the train. Some people choose to put on earphones and listen to music, but in some cases they turn the volume so high that the people around them get to listen, too.

Why do people raise their voices when they could express themselves in softer tones? Generally, people tend to speak louder when their words lack substance. People think that they sound more convincing when they speak at full volume. But a society where the loudest person wins is primitive and barbaric.

I was surprised when I watched NHK at the time of the Tohoku earthquake. Though the country had been struck by a devastating natural disaster, the anchor’s composure was amazing. Korean news anchors and reporters tend to speak in high tones as they deliver the news.

To be sure, Korean society is a loud one. On social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, a few loudmouths can dominate the discussion. But a society that is loud lacks stability. In a refined society, people are able to communicate smoothly even when speaking softly. Let’s keep our voices down and enjoy the silence.

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

By Bae Myung-bok
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