Attachment to planners

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Attachment to planners


The diary of the late Kim Young-han, the former Blue House secretary for civil affairs.

Japanese people have a special attachment to planners. Before the new year begins, stationery stores are crowded with customers shopping for new planners and notebooks. Loft, for example, a store in Shibuya, Tokyo, displays more than 4,000 kinds of planners.

For 12 straight years, Hobonichi has been the best-selling manufacturer of planners. In 2002, it sold 12,000 copies, and this year, it has released 79 different kinds of planners in various designs, colors, sizes and materials. This year, Hobonichi produced 610,000 planners.

One of the most popular is a planner set with two separate books for the first and second half of the year.

In a digital world where people manage schedules on smartphones and tablets, old-school planners continue to evolve. The stationery industry was concerned about a rapid decline, but it turned crisis into opportunity by adjusting to customers’ tastes. The population of Japan is 126.7 million, but more than 100 million planners are sold every year.

Pen and pencil manufacturer Zebra surveyed 104 new hires at Japanese companies in July and found that 78.8 percent of respondents said they handwrote work tasks, and 56.9 percent said they handwrote schedules on their planners. Only 21.2 percent used smartphones.

Handwriting stimulates the brain more than typing, and information can be stored longer in the memory bank. In an online article for the Yomiuri Shimbun, stationery expert Makiko Fukushima praised planners. “Unlike digital devices, you can leave various forms of records from your feelings, sentiment and memories.”

But in Korea, a planner has two contrasting images. The first is of a precious journal for chronicling the past and planning the future. The other represents lack of communication, obsession and conspiracy.

The very person who created this negative image was President Park Geun-hye, who trapped herself in her small notebook and stayed distant from the people. Many decisions on major Blue House and government positions were made based on her notebook. They laid out her unjust and abnormal administration. It is frightening that Choi Soon-sil’s family plotted their corruption through Park’s notebook.

The diary that the late Kim Young-han, former Blue House secretary for civil affairs, left is crucial evidence in the scandal. The notebook of Ahn Chong-bum, the president’s secretary for policy coordination, is filled with Park’s orders and is likely to be proof of her legal violations.

It is the irony of history that the fate of the “notebook princess” depends on the notes of her cronies, notes that were kept secretly.

Meanwhile, digital devices like smartphones are a means of communication and sharing materials with others.

The year 2016 is coming to an end. We are heavy-hearted from more troubles than we had hoped for. Still, let us not give up hope. I am going to take time to pick up a new planner for the future.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 13, Page 30

*The author is the Tokyo correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.


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