So­ci­ety sans re­spected el­ders

The Korea Times - - OPINION - Park Moo-jong Park Moo-jong (em­[email protected]) is a stand­ing ad­viser of The Korea Times. He served as the pres­i­dent-pub­lisher of the na­tion’s first English daily news­pa­per from 2004 to 2014 af­ter work­ing as a re­porter since 1974.

When Car­di­nal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, the na­tion’s first Ro­man Catholic car­di­nal, who was a sig­na­ture guid­ing star of South Kore­ans in their cru­sade for democ­racy for three decades, passed away 10 years ago in 2009 at the age of 86, many peo­ple lamented that they had lost their fi­nal “re­spected elder.”

Ge­orge Bernard Shaw (18561950) said in his 1903 play, “Man and Su­per­man,” that “the more things a man is ashamed of, the more re­spectable he is.”

The Ir­ish play­wright’s words ap­par­ently mean that hav­ing a sense of hu­mor and know­ing good from evil are the very ba­sis of the sense of re­spect for oth­ers.

Al­ready 18 years ago back in 2001, a Unicef sur­vey found the then “sur­pris­ing and shock­ing” re­sult that young Kore­ans were los­ing the feel­ing of re­spect for oth­ers, no­tably for el­derly peo­ple.

And the grow­ing gen­er­a­tion’s re­spect for the el­derly has been rapidly de­creas­ing in our so­ci­ety, as in­di­cated by young peo­ple’s in­creas­ing use of the term, “kkon­dae,” re­fer­ring to mostly el­derly peo­ple who are au­thor­i­ta­tive, stub­born and le­nient on them­selves while hard on oth­ers, cling­ing to the past and be­ing crit­i­cal of those from later eras, ac­cord­ing to a Korea Times re­port.

The “pop­u­lar­ity” of the Korean term, kkon­dae, was well proven re­cently as it joined such Korean words as “chae­bol,” “gapjil,” “on­dol,” and “bibim­bap” to name a few, that have be­come global English words, fol­low­ing a BBC re­port.

The BBC re­cently in­tro­duced the term as its “word of the day,” trans­lat­ing it as a “con­de­scend­ing older per­son, the kind you of­ten find in a mid­dle- or up­per-man­age­ment po­si­tion.”

“The kkon­dae ti­tle is usu­ally at­trib­uted to men and al­most al­ways used as an in­sult, point­edly call­ing out su­per­vi­sors who are quick to dole out un­so­licited ad­vice and even quicker to de­mand ab­so­lute obe­di­ence from their ju­niors.” the Bri­tish broad­caster added.

Per­son­ally, I have the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing called “kkon­dae.” I was riding an ascending es­ca­la­tor at Seoul Sta­tion when a young man in his 20s, maybe, was run­ning up it. I told him, “Hey, don’t run. Walk. Why don’t you see the warn­ing on the poster?”

Look­ing down at me, he said, “So, you are called kkon­dae,” and he ran away. I was speech­less, ask­ing my­self, “Was I wrong?” I am con­fi­dent that I was not kkon­dae. The young­ster was rude and was ill-bred.

To date, kkon­dae used to be a stu­dent slang in its early days decades ago to la­bel un­for­giv­ing, stub­born and strict teach­ers or fa­thers. Now kkon­dae is widely used out­side the class­room to de­scribe the type of per­son whom no­body wants to be­come in their daily lives, par­tic­u­larly in work­places.

A sig­na­ture kkon­dae is a per­son who loves to use sophistry like “nae-ro nam-bul,” a coined Korean term of a four-syl­la­ble ab­bre­vi­a­tion mean­ing, “If I love some­one, it is a ro­mance; but if oth­ers do, it is an af­fair.”

In this rapidly ag­ing so­ci­ety, its el­derly mem­bers should be ar­biters of ex­pe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge, ir­re­spec­tive of their so­cial sta­tus or ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

They have the re­spon­si­bil­ity, tra­di­tion­ally, to of­fer the younger gen­er­a­tion their ex­pe­ri­ences and knowl­edge, so that they can adopt, adapt and de­velop them to build more re­silient and bet­ter so­ci­eties now and in the days to come.

Of course, it is sad that some ed­u­cated young­sters feel that they are bet­ter than these el­derly mem­bers of so­ci­ety. Thus, they do not show any re­spect to­ward them.

How­ever, it is our re­al­ity that the adults of this so­ci­ety have failed to be­have as “el­ders” and have not won the re­spect of young peo­ple.

Whether it is in the lead­er­ship of the na­tion or in neigh­bor­hoods, older adults are in self­ish con­flicts, pay­ing no at­ten­tion to the neg­a­tive ef­fects their ac­tions have on the younger gen­er­a­tion.

What will the grow­ing gen­er­a­tion learn from our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, who are al­ways en­gaged in ugly par­ti­san strife and only ob­sessed with po­lit­i­cal gain, as seen in the mount­ing na­tional cri­sis over crim­i­nal sus­pi­cions in­volv­ing newly-named Jus­tice Min­is­ter Cho Kuk?

Who can re­spect so­cial lead­ers, par­tic­u­larly po­lit­i­cal ones, who are busy mass-pro­duc­ing fake news for their own self­ish po­lit­i­cal in­ter­est.

No one can dis­pute that the ugly ac­tions of these peo­ple are greatly con­tribut­ing to younger peo­ple’s loss of re­spect for oth­ers, es­pe­cially the el­derly.

It is a shame such a neg­a­tive word as kkon­dae has be­come a global term. It is sad to think that the young peo­ple of to­day may grow up to be kkon­dae them­selves.

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