Friday, April 4, 2014

Tipped Over the Edge

In Mapo, Seoul: a bridge to oblivion.

This New York Times editorial penned by novelist Kim Young-ha is the latest piece to highlight Korea’s alarmingly persistent epidemic of suicides. Korea’s suicide rate is the highest among OECD countries, accounting for 40 victims per day. Taking one’s life is the nation’s fourth-highest cause of death.
An old adage asserts that, in nature, there is strength in numbers. Ask any fish swimming with its school. While often true, the problem in a conformist society like Korea’s lies with those who don’t get counted. Korea is famously intolerant of both individualism and failure. Therefore, the consequences for those cast outside of social norms by economic hardship, academic failure, health issues, or jilted romance is tragically severe.
Over the centuries when the country’s citizenry fought against foreign invasion and poverty, a strong collective identity was necessary for survival. And during the go-go decades following the Korean War, there was sufficient progress – economic, spiritual, social – made to justify the ongoing subjugation of self and pluralism. Group-think was more than merely patriotic; it was good national policy. However, Korea has reached the level of maturity where fostering creativity takes on a much higher importance than before. In fact, it is a downright necessity. And creativity by definition is the celebration of the individual, the unique.
The notion of failure is hardly ever lauded per se anywhere; nevertheless, it needs to be accepted as a necessary by-product of acting courageously and attempting to forge ahead. Unfortunately for Korea, shame bears a huge emotional cost, much more so than the converse rewards of achieving success, which too often seems more like entitlement than aspiration. Until Koreans can accept that the bridge of life is forged with an alloy of both success and failure, their eyes will too often be diverted downwards as they cross, rather than looking ahead towards the other end of the span.

No comments:

Post a Comment