Trust your guts!
By Yoon Hye-sun
“Hey! Let’s have a bite after class.”
“Sorry, but I have two employment studies today. I’ll catch you later.”
For Korean college students, especially seniors, attending an employment study has become almost a bound duty.
What is an employment study? It is a spot study to enter specific companies, mainly large, well-known ones, upon graduation, or more preferably, even before finishing study.
Of course, preparing for one’s future career is necessary. The question remains, however: why should students’ future dreams be so uniform and unimaginative? Why should they be competing only to improve their TOEIC score or win computer certificates and other licenses to prove their job-readiness?
It seems as if getting into a Samsung or Hyundai subsidiary is the supreme task for most students. Is this what Korean collegians have dreamed of since they were very small, however? Probably not. Then what has made these men and women in their early- and mid-20s aspire to turn themselves into just parts and components of a giant corporate machine?
The present economy and jobless growth may be one reason. But more fundamental is our education system. During 12 years of elementary and secondary schooling, parents and teachers force their youngsters to be stable, risk-free workers as part of large organizations, whether public or private, or to pass licenses to become high-paid professionals, such as lawyers, doctors and accountants.
This society requires students to be perfect in all kinds of qualifications. Since very young, they are asked to be “one of them,” instead of “one and only.” Therefore, even students who aim to be artists later must first have a high GPA in math and English to enter prestigious universities. How happy can a person feel, or how much can one even achieve, by becoming one of many instead of seeking to the one and only, however? In my opinion, what’s important is to follow our own instincts, dreams and strengths, even if that means being ''less perfect“in other areas.
Koreans saw a good example in the nation’s music industry last year.
Starting from the success of “Seo Taeji and Boys” in the early 1990s, fans here have shown their love for singing and dancing groups. Whereas the older groups focused more on their individual characteristics and peculiar images, the more recent ones seem to be vying to be more perfect while pursuing basically the same types of music.
They are flawless in singing, dancing and even appearance. To become a perfect doll, many members of these boy and girl groups undergo plastic surgery, changing their faces and bodies until it gets nearly impossible to tell them apart.
Some of them gained success not just at home but abroad to create a new genre of K-pop as leaders of the hallyu boom. But a mega hit was made not by one of these perfect, characterless dolls, but by a man looking far from perfect and even homely by the standards of the local music industry today.
Psy, aka Park Jae-sang, a stout guy with a typical "Oriental” face in his mid-30s, is the man. He is a world star whose music video "Gangnam Style” made it to the second place on the Billboard Hot 100 last year, Psy was known to be a rebel at home and at school. His former teachers say Park was one of the most troublesome boys in classes. However, people like him and feel enthusiastic about this carefree rap singer, even though his singing and dancing are not perfect. Why?
As I see it, it’s because he has guts, his own views and trusts in himself. He doesn’t mind looking funny and even "broken” as that helps him hammer home the message he wants to express and to touch the audience.
So my own message is this: it is time for the young men and women of Korea to seek and find what they really want ― not what they were forced to believe they want by their parents and teachers ― and how they should realize that.
Let’s choose our own way and have fun living it.
The writer is an English major at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.