A sad portrait of Korean society
Recently I watched “Boyhood,” a film that attracted 100,000 viewers in Korea. It is a coming-of-age story that follows the character Mason from age 6 to 18. What makes this film amazing is that the twelve years in the story are actually 12 years in real life. Film director Richard Linklater assembled actors and crew for a period of time every year and completed the film over 12 years.
It is a drama, not a documentary, but there are small dramatic incidents in the movie. It chronicles everyday moments that any one of us could experience, such as the divorce and remarriage of parents, transferring to another school, finding friends and girlfriends. The boy who asks his dad about magic after reading Harry Potter realizes that the life of his mother is just as complicated as his own. We have all experienced a similar process of growing up, but watching the boy getting older on screen is simply astonishing.
I imagined what kind of movie it would be if the life of a Korean boy were chronicled. Korean youngsters do have their moments of joy, but the backdrop would mostly be at school or at after-school academies. Going camping with his father and talking about life or developing photos in a dark room would have to be staged. Mason goes through different experiences and finds his talent, and he gets a scholarship to go to a college, which is the most “dramatic” part of the plot.
Koreans under 18 rated 60.3 points in life satisfaction, the lowest among members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. While it is doubtful that life satisfaction can be measured and ranked, the poor ranking is quite sad. It is no news that Koreans rank lowest in the happiness index, but the survey confirmed that our children are not happy either. They responded that they are not satisfied with their lives because of academic stress, school violence and Internet addiction. Korea’s child deprivation index, which measures the physical and social conditions necessary for wellbeing of children, is 54.8 percent, which is also the lowest. The deficiency in music, sports, club participation and leisure activities is serious.
Today is the day of the College Scholastic Ability Test in Korea. If 12 years of a high school seniors’ life had been recorded, most would depict the race toward this one exam. As these unhappy children grow into unhappy adults, they will hopefully feel a sense of liberation after completing the test. Good luck to everyone taking the CSAT.
*The author is a culture and sports writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 12, Page 31
BY LEE YOUNG-HEE