A litmus test of citizenshipTwo incidents involving an extraordinary “windfall” here and abroad shortly before the beginning of the New Year have made our hearts heavy.
Eight million won ($7,240) in cash, which a mentally disabled man in his 20s threw on an eight-lane road in downtown Daegu, disappeared in the blink of an eye.
In Shanghai, as many as 36 Chinese people were crushed to death in a stampede to catch bar coupons that looked like U.S. dollar bills thrown from a building window at Chen Yi Square in a mass New Year celebration. Though no one can find fault with the human desire for a bonanza, we cannot but look back on what really happened in Daegu.
As it turned out, the 8 million won in cash was money the man had inherited from his grandfather, who had been arduously collecting junk throughout his life to feed his poor family. The Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency posted a plea letter on social media platforms, urging those who took the money to return it to the owner with the explanation that the money “did not suddenly fall from the sky, but was handed over to a sick grandson. So please give it back to him if you obtained it without knowing the context.”
The police said it is difficult to punish those who pocketed the money, as the grandson voluntarily scattered a bundle of 50,000 won bills over the road. If so, the case serves as a litmus test of our citizenship, the core of which is conscientious consideration - despite a lack of legal requirements - for the good of society.
After the police posted the appeal and media reports, some people started to return their take to its rightful owner. An unidentified man in his 30s came to a police station to return the 1 million won he had grabbed, and a woman in her 40s returned 150,000 won, saying her mother in her 70s told her she had picked up three 50,000 won bills off the road a few days ago. Kudos to those who voluntarily brought the cash to nearby authorities.
Except for them, however, a large amount of the lost money had not been returned as of Friday afternoon - four days after the incident.
Is it too early to tell or is it too much to expect mature citizenship worthy of our applause? If dreaming of a jackpot is part of human nature, returning the money to the owner must also be part of our nature. If the lucky citizens hand all of the 8 million won cash back to the grandson, it could be a small yet meaningful energizing force for a hard-hearted world.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 3, Page 26