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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Kids are killing themselves. The media is carpet-bombing tons of articles related to recent suicides of students who were bullied by their classmates. They blame the bullies and their parents, schools for their wrongdoing. But I think that these blames are missing the point and in some aspects, they are even deceiving.

My point is not that they shouldn’t be blamed or that ostracizing has a long history whereever human resides so it can’t be an issue. The media shuns from looking the issue squarely to find a fundamental solution.

Am I the only one who is thinking that killing himself out of pressure of grades from parents or even killing his own mother who were beating her high schooler son with a golf club is worse and more important issue, which is shortly consigned to oblivion along the media’s indifference?

It is all too easy to blame someone in a situation where victim and culprit are clearly separated. Culprit: bad, victim: poor. End of story. Indeed, probably they don’t want to deal with a situation where everyone is a victim and a culprit at the same time — they have to make the readers feel uncomfortable by pointing out even one of us is to blame if they are going to ask for a real, fundamental solution.

Education is a fundamental, complicated issue here. Academic capital is the single most important capital in the South Korean society and its importance overwhelms the others’. 95.5% of students including infants are participating in private education and the estimated market size is about $34 billion and it is 3.8% of nominal GDP. People here are suffering from hardship due to an economic bipolarization but they don’t dare to cut down their expense on private education at all! I’ve been wondering, why?

On the way of achieving an unprecedented economic growth in a (relatively) short span of a generation, setting education, in other words accumulating academic capital a top priority was well rewarded. Probably almost all of the nation have at least once heard of “rags to riches through education” story. It seems to me that a spectre, with a memory of rapid advancement in social status by education is still haunting among the people’s minds while the memory is withering away fast in reality — a map of the SK social status is getting fixated and the door is closing. A sense of defeat which is draped over today’s youth reflects this fact, I guess.

(Though I am not sure why, college students are wearing recently more “school jackets,” baseball jackets embroidered with the name of the college and the department to which a student belongs. It would be very interesting to analyse this phenomenon. I am not the only one who feels this way: the media is curious, too.)

The spectre is still haunting and some of us are obsessive to even project their unfulfilled dreams on their children compulsively. (and I’m going to write about these obsessions, which is at the same time horrible and ridiculous, in South Korea sooner or later.) Obsession and compulsion hurt and they leave a wound behind. The wound lurks deep into one’s heart, waiting for someone to pass itself on and a chain of pain begins. I might be being too emotional here but I have to emphasize that this is a very serious issue. It has to be cut down sooner than later. Again, a boy is killing himself out of his poor grade and a mother is beating her own son for a poor grade, with a golf club, and her son is going to put a knife into his mother’s throat.

Kim Mun Soo, the governor of Kyunggi Province made a phone call to local fire station to inquire a transportation system of cancer patients while visiting a sanitarium on 19th Dec. The following is the dialogue via emergency line:

The Governor: I’m the governor.
The fireman: This is the Namyangju Fire Station. May I help you?
G: I’m the governor Kim Mun Soo.
F: (silence)
G: I’m the governor. State your rank and name.
F: May I ask you what it is about?
G: I’m the governor. Why do you not state your name?
F: This is an emergency line. Firstly, please tell me what it is about.

(repeat twice or three times)

Obviously the fireman believed that it was a prank call. As the caller kept insisting that he is the governor and asking the fireman to state his name and rank while he does not answer why he was calling on emergency line, the fireman hung up at last. The insistent governor made a call again and after connected to other fireman, the governor constantly called for the former speaker’s name and rank (this one had stated his name and rank well) and got hung up again.

Two firemen were shunted off to other fire stations on 23th for not complying the procedure. Firemen should state his name and rank at first on the phone and are not allowed to judge a prank call arbitrarily, according to the procedure.

The initial tone of the press was describing firemen as dishonest and it seemed to be because all of their articles were based on the press release from Kyunggi Province. But right after release of the actual recording of the phone calls public was exasperated by the governor’s arrogance and his authoritarian approach to the issue by tweeting “They lacked the basics [for working for public].

A sudden dawn of the new meme… As fast as Herman Cain’s, as fertile as Rick Perry’s.

What really got me interested is that a rapid shift of the tone of the press. If there had been no release of the recording, most of people weren’t aware of what really had been going on then and everything would be handled well as the press releaseguided what should seem to be. It was after public was exasperated by the recording when the press changed its tone.

The conclusion of the happening was also extraordinarily authoritarian. Whom do you expect to having released the recording? The shunted-off firemen or their colleague in anger? Nope, it was the provincial government and it was foreducational purpose, to prevent firemen from not recognizing their commander-in-chief’s voice.

I tried my best to death to raise my grade but it didn’t work. Mom openly insulted me in front of my families. My feelings were hurt. It is utterly wrong to emphasize a specific way of education only in the society. Education which does not approve diversity is ought to be corrected. I no longer want to live in this world. I don’t want to be forced to do what I do not want to do. I want to leave this society that evaluates people by their grades. I want to be born again in the U.S. I’m going to meet Steve Jobs soon. [this was written weeks after Jobs’s departure] Mom and dad, let at least my brother do what he wants to do. Please do me this last favor: bury me with my iPod and my teddy bear.

An excerpt from a will of 14 year old South Korean student who committed suicide in last October. (source: The Kyunghyang Sinmun 12/14/2011 The source is removed for unknown reason)