I often think about how much more interesting the world would be if we could free ourselves from the confines of conventions and see things from different perspectives. For example, we customarily think of refrigerators and televisions as two different things. What if, however, we were to combine the two and create a refrigerator with a built-in TV and MP3 player so people could watch a television drama or listen to their favorite music while cooking in the kitchen? By thinking outside of the box, Korean home appliance manufacturers have already combined normally unrelated products to create innovative refrigerators praised by consumers all over the world.
Thanks to the Korean Wave and world-class companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai, Korea is widely known throughout the world these days. Last week, I found a nice jacket at Macy's in New York and brought it to the cashier's desk to pay. Suddenly, the cashier asked me, "Are you from Korea?" "Yes, I am," I replied. "But how did you know that?" "I just know," she said, smiling brightly. "I watch Korean TV shows. Kim Jong-gook is my favourite. Boy, I like Running Man so much." To my surprise, she began speaking in almost-fluent Korean. "Oh my, you speak Korean!" I exclaimed, astonished. "Well, I learned it from the Korean TV show," she answered proudly.
I was amazed by the fact that this American woman watched Korean television shows on the Internet and liked them so much that she even learned the Korean language. She was so excited to have conversed with me that she forgot to take off the plastic security device from the jacket. So I had to return to the department store the next day. But the trip was worthwhile because the cashier was living proof of Korea's unprecedented popularity.
We should not only think outside of the box in the home appliances and technological realm, but also in the historical and political arena as well. For example, we learn at school that when the Chinese invaded Korea in A.D. 612, a Korean general named Eulji Mundeok sent a four-line poem to the Chinese commander in an attempt to make him withdraw. Deeply moved by the poem, the Chinese general actually pulled back his troops. Taking advantage of the situation, Eulji Mundeok ambushed the retreating Chinese troops and killed approximately 300,000 Chinese soldiers in the Cheongcheon River by abruptly opening the temporary dam he had constructed.