A fresh start for KoreaMy son, who is in high school, wanted to watch the latest movie in the “Hobbit” series, but I persuaded him to watch “Ode to My Father” with me instead. Even though the movie is controversial, he seemed to enjoy it. He knows that his grandfather was onboard the ship escaping Heungnam Port and grew up in Kukje Market in Busan, just like the protagonist in the film.
The movie reminded me of my father, who passed away last year. It was worth the time and money to feel empathy from my teenage son. But, of course, it was too much to expect him to be moved by the film and say, “I’ll work harder at school.” How would he have responded if I had said, “Your grandfather’s generation experienced such hard times, and it’s all thanks to them that we are living in peace and prosperity now. Isn’t Korea great?”
I sound so old-fashioned, but I am worried my son may feel ashamed of the country he was born and grew up in. It started when I read the Facebook post “Korea’s OECD Report Card.” The author summarized media reports and data from the OECD. It was a list of Korea’s worsts: the highest extracurricular expense spending, the highest poverty rate of senior citizens and the biggest income gap between genders. Our lesser-known notoriety includes the death rates of pedestrians and those with diabetes. In seven lists, including the sex crime rate and income disparity, Korea is ranked second place. It seems to deserve to be criticized as “second rate.”
But are we really inferior? Does the 50-worst list explain everything about Korea? There are many other things that describe Korea. For example, according to the economic forecast published by the OECD, Korea’s economic growth rate is 3.5 percent this year, the highest among the 34 members of the OECD. Next year’s projection is 3.8 percent, second only to Mexico’s 3.9 percent.
While people lament Korea being trapped in a swamp of low growth, the Korean economy is actually doing well. Also, the rate of R&D investment to gross domestic product in 2012 was also the highest among the OECD members. In fact, making a list of the 50 best things could be as easy as coming up with the worst 50.
But our children will surely find a 50-best list uninteresting, just as they are not attracted to the good guys. But a guy without confidence is even less charming. Having read posts like the 50 worst, will our children lose confidence and become unattractive? Perhaps I already have.
Aside from the 50-worst list, too many incidents - from the tragedy of the Sewol ferry to the death of Private Yun to the nut rage of an heiress - have been taking confidence away from Koreans. Nevertheless, all these events don’t brand Korea as second class. The life of the dad in “Ode to My Father” was not meaningless. The Republic of Korea should regain its confidence as we welcome the new year.
*The author is a business news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 31, Page 26
by KIM JUN-HYUN