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Posted : 2012-05-10 17:13
Updated : 2012-05-10 17:13

Korea and its enterprising spirits


By Park Hee-jung

An idea that stands out is, ``Imagination is more important than knowledge.” We are free to dream. Dreaming is freedom.

The reason people are impressed by indomitable willpower, never to be kept down, is because of the energy that never gives up on a dream.

A natural entrepreneur, is a way that we may also describe South Korea. My country suffered the pain of losing our homeland because of cruel Japanese colonization over a period of 35 years. Before pausing for breath after the severe colonization, the Korean War occurred and lasted from 1950 until 1953.

As a result we had to found a new nation from the ashes of devastation. This we admirably accomplished with our bare hands because ``energy and persistence conquer all things.” Even though the government failed twice, we were able to rebuild for a hugely successful future.

No country in the world saw any hope for South Korea. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in 1953 was $67 which was even smaller than Somalia, the poorest country in Africa. At that time, South Korea was ranked as the second poorest country in the world.

Our fathers and mothers never gave up and worked very hard. Statistics show an increase of 800 times the amount of economic growth thanks to the New Village Movement (Saemaul Undong) and “The Miracle on the Han River” joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Korea held the G20 Seoul Summit and produced U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

South Korea has become the world’s best in several fields. Now you can see natural entrepreneurs such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG even in rural areas around the world. Additionally, South Korea is the only country which was once aided yet now aids other countries for the first time in history.

My desire is that our country develops as the best country culturally more so than economically. It is because our nation learned how important it is to live together through our history of pain.

I think the spirit of entrepreneurship is indomitable and provides warm courage to live together. There is a sort of cliché among professors here. It is, ``Fail more as early as possible.” It means, ``Train yourself in order that you can start all over again anytime and anywhere.” It also means, ``It is okay to fail” and “test your dreams”.

Words from ``The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, the American novelist, comes to mind: ``A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” It is true. What we have in our small country is a dream. So we must not fear failure in testing our dreams. We failed so many times and we are now so much closer to success.

We are in one vessel, a vessel called the Earth. We have to go together whether we like it or not. We are not able to overturn the vessel. Wall Street rallies lead to college classrooms and demand other values. For the Earth, a vessel with 7 billion passengers, new strategies are needed. Instead we should not have a society in which a person is branded as a loser in life for the rest of their life after a single failure, but a society which embraces the low-income classes and gives equal opportunities to the socially disadvantaged.

I look forward to this entrepreneurship with ``restoration” which embraces the 4 billion people in developing nations and the ``development” with the grandeur of our dreams. We have risen from good to great and is now a nation admired by developing countries throughout the world.

I suggest we concentrate on the development of the low-income class market worth $5 trillion which is based on 40 years of experience from Korean history. Entering the market worth $5 trillion and eliminating poverty, would make lives rich enough, a new social story, a bigger pie, and create new values for all.

This would be based on a new imagination and pioneering spirit and can be the answer to the values that our time demands. “A dream we dream alone is only a dream, but the dream we dream together is reality.”

The writer is a student in law and entrepreneurship at Duke University School of Law and a strategist for the President’s Office of the World Federation of United Nations Associations. His email address is heejungpark@duke.edu.

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