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[Opinion] “By The Way, What Do You Do?”

Posted March. 05, 2004 22:51,   


Former President Kim Young-sam once visited an elementary school in Seoul as a guest speaker during his tenure. At the school, a boy asked him, “There is a girl I like but my friend also likes her. Should I choose love or friendship?” Kim answered, “If you love someone, you should go for love and win her over.”

The story may be laughable but has some significance that makes one contemplate on it—that Kim perceives love as something to fight for like democracy or that he cherishes personal/absolute value “love” more than group values such as friendship and loyalty. The boy (probably a man now) was an excellent questioner who brought out an answer that reflected the values of the former president. Two days ago, a high school girl asked Uri Party Chairman Chung Dong-young a question as insightful as the boy’s. During the Q&A session after Chung gave his speech at the high school, she shyly raised her hand and asked, “By the way, what do you do?”

There are numerous arguments over the simple question. One analysis: she knew that he was a politician but asked anyways. In this case, the question is applauded and the episode is cited to be comical and as sensational as this year’s most popular phrase among Koreans, “Killing him twice.” Some say the question reflects profound philosophic thoughts and criticism on politics and the role of politicians. Netizens are supporting the argument by criticizing the so-called “one time event politics” and say, “I do not know what Chairman Chung does, either. He visits local markets too often. What is he, trying to open a supermarket?” They also showed nihilism by pointing out, “I want to ask the same question to all politicians. What do they do?”

Others argue, however, that the girl genuinely did not know who he was and that she was like a mourner asking, “By the way, who died?” after crying for hours. In this case, a typical lesson can be taught--“Be well aware of what is going on around you.” It is of no use trying to figure out who is wrong and who is right, whether it be students who are not even half interested in politics as they are in scandals of pop stars or politicians who pay lip service even without neither introducing themselves nor considering who their audience is. Too many people in this world run around without knowing what they are really doing. Sometimes, they should stop for a moment and ask themselves, “By the way, what do I do now?”

Editorial Writer Kim Soon-duk, yuri@donga.com