Thursday, January 13, 2011

Post-Mencian Korea

"What Korea needs is one courageous person," said Kwak Keum-ju, professor of psychology, quoted in this article suggesting that "Koreans, it seems, have become more detached than ever from what happens in their communities, leading to a lack of leadership and individual initiative" — Calling all heroes. Some examples:
    High school freshman Kim Han-seul was on her way to meet a friend when she spotted a toddler perched on the ledge of a two-story building. As a group of bystanders watched in disbelief, Kim, without thinking, leapt onto a nearby fence, scaled the building and rescued the toddler....

    Last year, an elementary school girl was blindfolded and dragged by a middle-aged man 600 meters (0.4 miles) down a street in broad daylight in Yeongdeungpo District, Seoul.

    Not one person called the police, and the school girl was raped by the man.

    In November last year, a man believed to be intoxicated passed out on a two-lane road in Gunsan, North Jeolla. He was run over by 16 passing cars until one driver pulled over and called 119.

    Experts call this the “bystander effect” - people assume someone else will take care of a problem, when, in fact, no one does.
Mencius comes to mind, who, suggesting that "[a]ll men have a mind which cannot bear to see the sufferings of others," noted that "if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress—not so they may gain the favor of the child's parents, nor to seek the praise of their neighbors and friends, nor from fear of a reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing."

This innate goodness is repressed by modern society, and South Korea is like any other modern country, only more so, since its modernization was so abrupt and dramatic.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.