Facing life’s second chapter

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Facing life’s second chapter

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Retirement looms darkly at the end of a career in Korea. While it’s often described as “the second chapter of your life,” for most people it’s the beginning of a hard journey to finding a new way to make a living.

I’ve thought a great deal about what I’m going to do when I retire from my job as a journalist. Since I write social and economic news reports, I could be a good social studies teacher at a high school. The underlying desire behind that idea is to make up for my immature past. After graduating from college, I taught at a high school for two years, and looking back on the experience, I feel like I was teaching my students without really understanding much about the world. I began studying social studies education in graduate school, and by the time I completed the coursework, I understood how many aspiring young teachers have a hard time finding a placement at a school.

My second career after retirement shouldn’t take away opportunities from young people. Also, even if I did go back to teaching, I wouldn’t be able to make up for my immaturity in the past.

Then the choice that former National Election Commission chairman, Kim Neung-hwan, made after his retirement gave me a clue as to how to move forward. The former Supreme Court judge, who was also mentioned as a prime minister candidate, is working at a convenience store run by his wife. People praise him as a symbol of integrity, as a true public servant. Of course, some suspect his motives and others believe that it would be better if he used his expert knowledge to help the nation. Nevertheless, what others say doesn’t mean much.

I don’t know him very well. But when I was covering legal news, I worked with him for a while so we know each other by name. A few months later, I talked to him over the phone, and upon hearing my name, he remembered me immediately. He gave me the impression that he had a very good memory of the work he has done. He projects the sense of sincerity that can be found in someone who is passionate about their work but not in those who are eager for fame.

So I can easily imagine him working at a corner store. Instead of seeking another position in the second chapter of his life that is devoted to service and contributing to society, living like an average citizen is a good way to start fresh. There’s no reason for someone who lived their first chapter as a special person to be just as special in their second chapter. No one can thrive until their last moment. It seems worthwhile to let go of any lingering devotion to past successes and live a sincere life until the end.

But not everyone can work at a convenience store after they retire. So I envy Kim, because he’s lucky enough to have a wife who already runs one.

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

by Yang Sunny

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