In response to our nation’s youth

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In response to our nation’s youth

We are in difficult times. It is painful to think of you writing a resume and looking for a job. Your letter to us was solemn criticism on the ignorant and arrogant older generation. Your anger was poignant and you sought answers to social and human problems.

Today’s global reality may provide the most candid disclosure of ignorance and greed in recent time. No period has had clear answers to human problems, but who would have imagined such serious crises when technology and civilization are at their most advanced and capitalism and democracy are at their peak? As unemployment, inequality, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, moral hazard and economic problems are rife around the world, I see the limitation of our wisdom.

Nevertheless, we cannot - and should not - stop our journey to resolve human problems. All human problems are universal and general. What we experience today are challenges that everyone has faced throughout history. At the same time, all human problems are present and personal. Today’s problems are personal problems shared by all individuals living today. There are countless individuals with problems that lead to social problems and global problems.

Therefore, generality and universality mean overall individuality. The universality of one period should be reflected in the individual lives of each citizen living at the time. The opposite theory also holds true. My problems and my sufferings have been experienced by all others who lived before me. So we should not be disappointed and frustrated by our individual problems. As we acknowledge the limits of our race, we are also consoled by our fellow people.

Then where should we find hope for our individual and universal problems? I think you are the hope. You will find the solutions to global and social problems. Your own problems are the core of our global and social problems. The aggregation of individual suffering is the social and global problem. Individual lives are a microcosm of the universality of the time, and the problem of the time is a different expression of human problems.

Therefore, there is no time to be disappointed or frustrated to resolve your own problems. If you abandon your own problems, no one will come and help you. But if you stand tall and address your issues, other individuals will follow, and the spirit will spread out to many others to change the society and the country. In the end, the hope will spread around the globe and change the world.

After I read your letter, I visited the Pantheon in Paris in one of the heaviest snowstorms in decades. I contemplated the lives of Voltaire, Rousseau and Victor Hugo. They have had a great influence not just on France but on the philosophy, system, academia, literature, soul, history, education and arts of all of humanity, and I wondered if their accomplishments could have been possible if they hadn’t stood up to their extreme personal sufferings and crises of the times, such as losing parents in childhood, wandering, poverty, solitude, the passing of their children, betrayal, having books banned, being wanted and suppressed by the authorities, deportation, exile, seclusion, the anti-government struggle and murder threats. Their lives, philosophies and influences were the product of determination and struggling against both personal ordeals and social irrationalities. I found consolation for us all at the Pantheon.

In order to overcome personal sufferings, to become a symbol of hope for others and to change the world, the revolution of my soul and spirit is necessary. Without it, nothing is possible. We need a revolution of the soul and spirit before we can have a revolution of humanity, society and the world.

Initially, we dream to solve our own problems. And the seed is planted in our hearts. When it grows, I am not dreaming, but the dream is leading me. That’s the revolution of the spirit and soul. I wish we can have the dream and passion to solve personal, social and global problems.

I hope my words will bring you consolation. Thank you.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily

*The author is a professor of political science at Yonsei University and a visiting professor at the school for advanced studies in the social sciences in France.

by Park Myung-lim
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