Breaking out of the prison of prejudice

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Breaking out of the prison of prejudice

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When it comes to pop music, my son and I have the same taste. We both like hip-hop. I like the powerful rhythms and profound lyrics and I appreciate the candid depiction of modern society and strong messages. Hip-hop has always been part of minority culture. It originated in Harlem in the 1980s and fed on the anger and sorrow there. Today, many hip-hop musicians are progressives and pacifists, as the desire for “a better world” is encrypted in hip-hop’s DNA.

One of the most socially active hip-hop musicians is will.i.am, the leader of the Black Eyed Peas and a prominent producer. In 2008, he coproduced “Yes We Can,” a song supporting Barack Obama for president. He was also involved in the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Earlier this month, will.i.am visited Korea. Though he gave a concert, it was not the main purpose of the visit. He was working on a new song for the Intel Ultrabook project, for which he visited 12 cities around the world to drum up participation. He was named Intel’s director of creative innovation in January. What Intel wants from him is inspiration and ideas.

These days, when the lines between industries have blurred, the competitive edge for an IT company like Intel is the imagination to create a new market and invent a new ecosystem. The same, old minds won’t be able to pull off such drastic innovations, so corporations are working to build diversity and expand their networks.

Korean companies are also seeking to change. Frankly, however, many of these plans are only nominal. Companies continue to adhere to the same old recruiting and hiring processes and still discriminate against candidates based on academic background or disability.

But a few months ago, IBM Korea announced a surprisingly refreshing recruitment campaign. It is giving extra points to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The move is part of IBM’s diversity recruitment program, which operates in every overseas branch. The program not only prevents discrimination but also promotes people with diverse perspectives, sexual orientation and cultural backgrounds. That open-mindedness has made IBM an industry leader for a century.

When will.i.am joined Intel, a Korean newspaper published an article titled, “High school grad hip-hop singer becomes IBM executive.” Is this a view limited to that one Korean newspaper? That kind of thinking will never lead us out of the prison of prejudice to innovation.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


Lee Na-ree
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