Undoubtedly, Koreans have a number of outstanding merits and positive characteristics. For example, the Korean people exhibit a powerful driving force, strong determination and extraordinary diligence. As a result, they have changed their country, which was once called the “Hermit Kingdom,” into a dynamic place where rapid and radical changes are taking place everywhere. Due to these merits, Koreans have also been able to achieve democratization, economic success and cultural prosperity in a relatively short span of time.
Regrettably, however, Koreans have a host of weak points and negative traits as well. First of all, Koreans are well-known to be short-tempered, emotional and impatient. When something happens, Koreans tend to react emotionally, instead of dealing with it calmly and rationally. Most Koreans are not skilled at hiding or controlling their emotions: they burst into tears when they are sad or happy and become easily enraged when they are provoked. Perhaps this is why there are few outstanding poker players in Korea; Koreans are genetically incapable of maintaining a poker face.
Koreans also seriously lack the ability to sense crises and the capacity to look at things in a cosmopolitan way. In 1592, when Japan’s invasion of Korea was imminent, Korean politicians were still in the midst of factional brawls, totally unaware of the forthcoming crisis or the turbulent international political situation which would eventually affect the fate of Korea.
The same thing happened when the Qing Dynasty invaded Korea in 1636. Completely ignorant of the political changes in China, Korean politicians stubbornly refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Qing Dynasty, the results of which were quite humiliating and devastating.
Even when Japan annexed Korea in 1910, incompetent Korean politicians, who were ignorant of international power politics, did not seem to detect the looming crisis and consequently allowed their nation to be deprived of its sovereignty.
Now once again, international tensions are rising in the East China Sea with China’s recent declaration of a new air defence zone that partly overlaps Japan’s and South Korea’s. As the U.S. Air Force and the Japanese Self-Defence Forces dispatched fighter planes to the region of conflict, so did the Chinese. Anxiety has spread its icy tendrils out into our neighbouring seas. Yet, as if they were completely unaware of the urgent international crisis, Korean politicians are once again only concerned with petty factional scuffles for political gain. Alas! Even when their national security and defence are at stake, Korea’s crisis sensors do not seem to be functioning properly.
Another example of our willful blindness to crises was the recent endorsement by a group of radical Catholic priests of the North Korean bombardment of Yeonpyeong-do in 2010. The problem is that many South Koreans’ mental clocks, including the above-mentioned religious leaders, stopped in the 1970s and 1980s, and thus they act as if South Korea is still under the control of a military dictatorship.
In a highly democratic nation such as today’s South Korea, such comments can be interpreted as religious leaders interfering with politics or seeking a modicum of political power. Instead of supporting North Korea, South Korean religious leaders should harshly criticise the North Korean political leaders for their ruthless repression of the North Korean people, which causes them to live in abject poverty and misery.