[Viewpoint] Dynamic or dynamite Korea?Today’s Japanese are driven by passionate conventions, Chinese by ambition to succeed and Koreans by rage. Anger can be explosive. If it is controlled as a positive driving engine, the energy could unite “dynamic Korea.” If not, it could be ticking as a “dynamitic Korea” about to blow up.
The war generation who experienced extreme poverty was forward -looking. Its members had faith in a better tomorrow that provoked them to wake up every morning and work. It is what inspired the “Miracle of the Han River.”
The baby boom generation grew up during the frenzied modernization and industrialization era. Fed daily, they began to hunger for more ideological freedom and democracy. They spent their youth fighting with raid officers and tear gas to bring about constitutional amendments to elect single-term presidents for the first time.
Today’s adult generation was born on the sprouts of democracy. Growing up as the host of the Summer Olympic Games and World Cup finals, they lived through one of the heydays of the country’s 5,000-year history. But those times are ending.
The Asian financial crisis in 1997 humbled the modern generation and caused many of them to lose their jobs. A decade later, dark clouds from Wall Street due to the subprime mortgage implosion reached our skies, and coupled with the recent credit crisis in Europe, the harsh and unfamiliar climate took a toll on our economy.
Despite abundant childhood days, many of today’s younger generation are without decent full-time jobs. They may be part of a weaker and cowardly generation that only seeks easier but more financially rewarding work. But they were groomed that way by their families and society. We can tell them there is still demand in less prestigious small and medium enterprises and more physically demanding lines of work that are now mostly done by foreign workers. But that sounds cruel to the young who have been led through elite courses of education overseas and in various academic programs.
The condescending attitude toward members of the jobless young generation may have sparked their anger. Their fathers may have worked to earn money, but today’s young work in part-time and irregular jobs to pay off debt. No matter how hard they try, they cannot get out of the debt pit. Without any sign of a better future and hope, they can only be frustrated and enraged.
Skepticism and complaints that society is without a fair set of rules adds fire to their anger. The right and wrong of the professor aiming a crossbow at a court judge in symbolic gesture against social injustice is not behind the hoopla over the film “Unbowed.” What it did was inflame the spurned feelings and memories from direct and indirect experiences with legal injustice and bureaucracy. The rage and distrust does not end with the judiciary system but against the entire elite class of politics, business conglomerates and media.
“Dynamic Korea” became our country slogan after red-clad, organized and passionate fervor that awed the global audience during the 2002 World Cup. Since then, various young Korean artists, athletes and performers have stormed the global stage. A small impetus can suddenly build up enormous and explosive energetic power among people of this nation.
We have at the same time become an equally dangerous, dynamitic society. A current of rage flows through Twitter and other social networking platforms through smartphones and the Internet. It is not important whether the energy is just or not.
The wave is building up, and it may come to overshadow events as important as the April legislative and December presidential elections. This phenomenon is important to notice because elections should be contests of values. But this year’s polls may have to contend with a rising wave of passionate rage.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong