Forum aims to form culture of listening

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Forum aims to form culture of listening

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At the founding ceremony for a forum dubbed “Listening Together,” held at W Stage, central Seoul, on Wednesday, a group of renowned figures participated as honorary chairmen and board members. From left to right: Joo Wan, a lawyer at Kim & Chang law firm; Roh Ick-sang, CEO and president of Hankook Research; Choe Myeong-won, a German language professor at Sungkyunkwan University; Jeongnyeom, head monk at Woljeong Temple (honorary chairman); Chung Sung-hun, head of the Korea DMZ Peace and Life Valley (chairman); Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC (honorary chairman); Sohn Hye-won, creative director at Crosspoint; Kim Min-hwan, an honorary professor at Korea University; Oh Jong-nam, chair of the board of directors of Scranton Women’s Leadership Center; Jo Seong-taek, head of Hwajaeng Cultural Academy; and Lee Ha-kyung, the chief editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo. By Kim Seong-ryong

How much are Koreans really listening to one another?

A survey carried out by Hankook Research shows that 62 percent of respondents said they thought they listened carefully to other people. Still, only 7 percent said they felt others were really listening to what they had to say.

Conflicts generated from self-centered miscommunication between people in Korea are estimated to cost about 27 percent of Korea’s total gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report by the Samsung Economic Research Institute.

To raise public awareness about the importance of listening, the 10 founding members of a forum titled “Listening Together” hosted a discussion Wednesday at W Stage in central Seoul. Hong Seok-hyun, the chairman of JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC, was named as an honorary chairman, and the group’s members include lawyers, professors and even a respected monk.

“In our society, which is plagued by serious conflicts, what we desperately need is the wisdom of people,” the members said in a joint statement to announce the establishment of the forum. “Our role will be to create a new culture of sincere dialogue and to nurture wisdom.”

Chung Sung-hun, the head of Korea DMZ Peace and Life Valley, a nongovernmental organization that promotes the development of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in a peaceful and ecological way, was appointed as the first chairman of the organization.

“If we listen attentively to our internal voices and even further to other people’s voices in the midst of this noisy and distracting world, we could probably find half the solutions for all the problems in the world,” Chung said.

Hong, the honorary chairman, added, “Listening starts by laying down your own words and answers. If a culture of listening settles in our society, the country’s entire soft infrastructure [its social and cultural standards] would change.”

Jeongnyeom, the head monk at Woljeong Temple, was also named as an honorary chairman. “If listening becomes the culture in Korean society amid deepening conflicts, an answer for these conflicts could be figured out,” he said.

Lee Bo-ra, a 21-year-old university student who attended the forum as a guest, said that careful listening among different generations could also work to reduce conflict.

“So far, these kinds of forums on various social issues have been set up in a fixed way,” said Lee Chang-seop, 45, another guest. “I expect this forum could bring about a sincere consensus by dealing with various topics in a comfortable atmosphere.”

The forum is scheduled to be held about six times a year and will not have the typical format of a panel discussion between opposite sides. Instead, it will serve as an open dialogue focused on narrowing the gap among various demographics and understanding different positions.

The theme for this year’s forum sessions will be “The Generation Gap and Dialogue.”

Under this theme, the first topic will concern generational talks on inter-Korean affairs and unification, which will be discussed July 18, at W Stage in Seoul.

The topic was selected based on the latest poll by Hankook Research, in which 51 percent of 1,006 male and female adults over 18 were surveyed about the most frequent conflicts they faced in their daily lives.

Fifty-one percent of respondents between 19 and 29 years old said generational conflict was most common, while only 25 percent of those in their 50s answered the same.

BY CHAE SEUNG-KI, CHO HYE-KYUNG [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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