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PM-nominee’s driving experience

Posted February. 12, 2013 09:55,   


After holding a news conference on his nomination Friday, Prime Minister-designate Chung Hong-won opted to drive himself, a gesture befitting his claim of being an ordinary man. When Yim Jong-ryong, chief of the Prime Minister’s Office, told Chung to get in a government vehicle with a chauffeur, the latter said, “I`ve been driving for the past 30 years.” Chung had Yim sit in the passenger seat and drove his wife’s car from the venue. Whether this was staged for the cameras to impress the people, the nation saw a humble character in the nominee. If he began driving 30 years ago, or around 1983, he must have bought a car nine years after starting his career as a prosecutor. Back then, Korea had about 900,000 cars registered. His comment also means that he got his driver’s license at age 39, which is quite late considering today`s standards. But considering the average Korean household rarely owned a car before 1988, Chung`s getting his license at that age was not so late after all.

Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, a former reporter of The Washington Post, wrote about the "10,000-hour rule" in his book “Outliers.” He said 10,000 hours of practice is necessary for a person to become a professional in a given field. Ten thousand hours means three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice for 10 years. Becoming a professional is not just being there or pretending to do something. The volume of hours requires conscientious efforts to find problems and correct them.

In Korea, numerous children begin studying subjects years before getting into elementary school, and those who train in the athletic clubs of their school learn advanced techniques. Yet just a few Koreans have become world-class scholars or sports stars. Golf phenom Tiger Woods, who began playing golf when he could barely walk, said in his autobiography that 20 minutes of practice a day was enough for him. Then, 10,000 hours of practice might not be required for a genius who grasps the key points.

Among the numerous scenarios of foul driving, speeding poses a greater risk in that death can result. Driving close to the car in front or violating a traffic signal can take lives, but when it comes to the death toll, speeding comes first without doubt. According to police, 40 percent of drivers involved in fatal car accidents caused by speeding between 2008 and 2010 had more than 15 years of experience. No doubt they had more confidence than they should have in their driving skills.

Koreans saw an average man in Prime Minister-nominee Chung when he opted to drive his wife’s car instead of the government car. His driving habits, however, will be uncovered in his confirmation hearings. In that sense, a person who drives him or herself could be in a more adverse condition than one with chauffeurs. If the 10,000-hour rule needs to be applied for the prime minister position, Chung would not fare well, though he would satisfy the condition if nominated for justice minister. On the other hand, if Chung was born with talent and works diligently, he will make a great prime minister though he has no experience as a Cabinet minister or lawmaker. What ensures the safety of passengers is not the experience of the driver but the capability of the driver.

Ass`t City Desk Editor Lee Dong-yeong (argus@donga.com)