New Year, New Spirit
By Kim Ji-soo
This year, the year 2010 is a fitting one to come after the long year of dread and hardship that we knew in 2009.
First of all, it's filled with significant milestones, including the 100th year of Japan's annexation of Korea, the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-1953) and the 50th anniversary of the April 19 Pro-Democracy Movement.
Through these numbers, one can see just how far Korea has come, and that feeling imbues a sense of hope, something everyone is desperately seeking this new year.
The hope springs from the fact that the events were painful memories for Korea. Personally, I am too young (?) to have experienced firsthand the above mentioned historical happenings.
I only know them through fragments of stories told by my father. My late grandfather, I was told held a low-level clerical work during Japanese colonial days. My father, born in the year 1934, once could speak Japanese as it was the language spoken in school.
But he is no longer fluent in Japanese. I, on the other hand, could get by even if I were to land in a remote part of Kanagawa in Japan after a full year of learning the language and having been a recipient of a Japanese scholarship in 1990.
One of the first English phrases my father spoke was ``Give me chocolate," words he uttered ― out of hunger ― to an American soldier he met as he headed south during the Korean War.
I, on the other hand, would probably opt to buy Godiva over any other chocolate. My memory is a bit fuzzy but I think he did get his chocolate and his hunger was appeased a little. When I was in college, the country was in the last throes of the democratic movement.
As a political science major, our class debated how the April 19 Pro-Democracy Movement, and other small and big movements accelerated Korea toward full democracy.
During our freshman year, the democracy movement eclipsed to the point that both college students and everyday citizens protested in front of Seoul City Hall for better democracy in the nation.
Some from our class went to Seoul City Hall; others stayed behind. I was of the latter group. For a long time, I felt indebted to those who actively participated and obtained the then-President Roh Tae-woo's pledge for direct presidential elections.
These experiences are indirect, but nevertheless, they have given me a chance to feel what the historical events meant to Korean lives. More importantly, there is a constant sense of indebtedness to those who lived through these events.
But just as the personal memories are becoming dimmer, so much time has passed and development taken place that we are able to look back more objectively.
Recently, a major daily in Seoul reported an emergence of a new generation of Koreans dubbed as the ``G Generation."
These are a mass of Koreans born around the 1988 Seoul Olympics, who grew up in a relatively affluent society. Not having experienced poverty, and zealously educated, they are globally minded, and English and computer literate. M
ost of all, they are confident of their individuality and have a measure of pride about their society. Such positive energy is what we should ride upon as we mark a significant new year.