Hwang Woo-Yea, the Minister of Education, gave a lecture to the students of the 10th class of Kim Chang Joon Academy of Politics and Economics. The topic of the lecture was “Happiness Education with Dream and Talent, Trusted Education to the Right Direction.”
The international political landscape is still full of endless pitfalls well into the New Year. Wars and conflicts are occurring in various parts of the globe, bringing numerous human casualties and creating a countless number of refugees. The atrocities that Sunni extremist group ISIS perpetrates are especially keen in fueling public rage.
ISIS burnt alive a Jordanian pilot, a fellow Muslim that they seized as a captive. Their cruelty angered Jordanians and the world alike, and television stations broadcast the Jordanian king himself flying a fighter jet to drop a bomb on an ISIS military base. Further, the world was once again awestruck by the extent of human cruelty when ISIS released a video containing the brutal execution of two Japanese captives.
In northern Myanmar’s Kokang region, more than 130 people have been killed following a military clash between the Burmese army and Chinese rebels. This meant that 30,000 refugees escaped to China’s Yunnan Province. Eighty percent of Kokang’s population is made up of Han Chinese fighting to be incorporated with China.
In the Western Hemisphere, 5,000 have already been brutally killed in eastern Ukraine as the war between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian forces rages on. Despite a truce agreement after a 16-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Poroshenko, German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande, fighting between the opposing forces continues.
In post-war Kosovo that ended the war of independence with Serbia in 2008, the economy has sunken to an extreme level producing an unemployment rate of 45 percent, with youth unemployment around 60 percent. Such circumstances have propelled 50,000 Kosovans to flee to Austria and Germany via Serbia and Hungary. For the Kosovan youth, they flee their country less for economic survival but more due to the unrest in the domestic political situation and a lack of trust in their government’s ability.
Greece, with all its historical brilliance, is in no better situation. Greece begot historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, a civilization that conquered most of Europe and is the origin of the modern Olympic games. Nevertheless, the once shining Greece is currently in an economic shambles. It is common to see well-dressed gentlemen going through trash cans in downtown Athens. Greece had its economic crisis as they splurged away the easy money made through tourism. They are in a dire situation with debt still pending to the “troika” — the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank — of $270 billion (or 240 billion euros), an unemployment rate of 28 percent and youth unemployment rate of 55 percent, while debt is still on the rise as Greece continues to issue government bonds in their attempts to pay the interest.
According to the press, such disasters occurred due to Greece’s over-generous welfare system and corruption of public servants. In the midst of this chaos, a recent Greek election resulted in extreme left-wing Alexis Tsipras taking the seat as the new Prime Minister. He was elected with a promise of anti-austerity measures to Greeks, who are fatigued from years of tough austerity policies.
Once elected, however, reality dictated differently. At the end, 70 percent of austerity agreements were sustained while the other 30 percent was replaced by reform policies. He also had to ask for a reduction of GDP from 3 percent to 1.49 percent. Although Greece saw a gain through heavy austerity measures, its national debt rose to $156 billion (or 139 billion euros) and its economy is still on the down slope; it is highly questionable whether an inexperienced prime minister who recently entered his 40s can save the nation from further hardships.
Japan is also expecting a 1.5 percent economic slide this year. In order to cover up his failed economic policies, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is instigating tension with neighboring countries through distorted history. However, Korea is still expecting 3.5 percent economic growth this year. Looking at other countries worldwide, we are still in a good standing.
We just need to persevere a little longer. Let’s trust our government and have a bit more patience. There are plenty of places currently in chaos across the world where thousands of lives perish every day, but we have a nation to call home and a government that we have elected ourselves. Now is a time for us to gather our strengths to support the government in unison. Take a look at our history. We have the legacies of our forefathers who have repeatedly overcome utmost adversity.
From what I hear, the number of crimes in Korea is increasing day by day, and society may be losing it stability due to lenient punishments.
First of all, though Korea does have capital punishment, there have been no executions for the past 20 years. Even in the case of an atrocious murder where the murderer disposed of the victim’s body by cutting it into pieces, the murderer was not sentenced to capital punishment. There is no capital punishment even for brutal murderers who reenact their crimes nonchalantly at the scenes of crime, and still ridicule and curse the families of their victims while being dragged away by the police. Instead of a death penalty, they are sentenced to life in prison, and the families of the victims are always in fear of the possibility that those killers might be released in the future. Even after the police caught those killers after months and years of strenuous struggle spending enormous amounts of tax money, those killers could be released one day.
Even the U.S., a country that puts the highest regard on human rights, executes dozens of criminals per year, since it believes that capital punishment makes a big difference in the prevention of brutal crimes. This is based on studies that show that the fear of capital punishment might make possible killers hesitate before they commit a murder. Of course, opposition to capital punishment has grown worldwide for the reason that it is seen as a form of brutal revenge. However, 58 countries still maintain a capital punishment system, and support for capital punishment has recently been growing. It is time for us to seriously study the possibility of allowing capital punishment at least for cruel serial killers.
It is desirable to reform the probation system by adopting a system similar to the one in the U.S. For example, a few days ago, the Supreme Court of Korea upheld the original decision by a lower court that sentenced a former Air Force Chief of Staff who sold military secrets to a U.S. defense contractor for 2.5 billion won to 10 months in prison with a suspension for two years. It was reported by some of the press that the prison sentence was upheld, and many people would believe that the person will be in jail for 10 months. In fact, he may not serve the 10 months if he does not break parole for the next two years. I hear that there has been almost no case where someone went to prison during their time of probation. The punishment, a ten-month prison sentence suspended for two years, is very likely to give the wrong impression of actual penal servitude to ordinary people. For this reason, I think that if someone is sentenced to 10 months in prison with probation for two years, it is desirable to put the person on a two-year probation after serving the 10-month prison term just as they do in the U.S.
With petty criminals, I think that the current monetary punishment worth two to three million won has no effect on those who commit shameful, immoral crimes that disturb public order, such as a drunken brawling, reckless speeding in an expensive foreign sports car at night, sexual harassment, defrauding old people and women of their pocket money, picking pockets, etc. I believe that these criminals should be punished strictly. To change their bad habits, judicial corporal punishment is needed. This form of punishment was once used around the world to punish and prevent crimes. In 1776, the U.S. Congress allowed President Washington to flog soldiers up to 100 times for discipline. Corporal punishment disappeared in the U.S., criticized as an act of barbarism which was used against black slaves, but it is still in use now after three hundred years in thirty-three countries. The primary example is Singapore. It is expanding corporal punishment as the city has been cleaned up and petty crimes like drunken violence have disappeared since the adoption of corporal punishment.
In 1994, an American teenager, Michael Fay, visited his mother in Singapore and pulled mischievous pranks such as vandalizing cars parked in the street and changing the direction of road signs, thinking lightly of the people there. He was arrested by the police and sentenced to six strokes of caning. It is said that the caning is so painful that it requires the presence of a doctor, and six strokes has to be divided into three per week as one cannot endure more than three strokes at a time. The American public criticized the barbaric punishment at the time, and President Clinton called the President of Singapore in person to reduce the punishment. The punishment was reduced to three strokes, and Fay changed into an exemplary teenager no longer causing such trouble after his return to the U.S. Watching this, it was an overwhelming opinion for some time among Americans that the U.S. should also introduce such a system.
To sum up, I think that heinous murderers should be executed. For other crimes, the suspension of a sentence should be abolished — for example, a nine-year prison sentence suspended for seven years should be nine years of actual penal servitude plus seven years of probation just as nine-year prison sentence with seven-year suspension or disqualification that Lee Seok-ki will serve for instigating a rebellion. And finally, corporal punishment should be added to the monetary penalty for crimes that are usually penalized with fines. I hope that experts in punishment will soon go to Singapore to study its corporal punishment system and publish the results of the study.
Today’s world seems more dangerous than we thought it would be. Terrorist attacks throughout the world, religious massacres and the outbreaks of epidemic diseases are making the world as dangerous as it’s ever been. However, there is neither a new strategy nor a solution to address these threats.
These days, countries have been busy finding political and military strategies to block terrorism, but have not been able to find any ways to prevent suicide terror attacks. No matter how strictly a country controls people’s departure and entrance and no matter how cutting-edge the technology and equipment it uses, the reality is that those attacks are not preventable.
We started the New Year in this dangerous situation. Despite this chaos, the U.S. where we live, stands tall as the strongest economic and military power in the world. The E.U. was created to counter the U.S. and has a territory larger than all of Europe, but its weakness was revealed in its failure to cope with the 2008 financial crisis.
The financial crisis led to economic crises in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. Even though Germany took on all the responsibility for the economic crisis of Europe, the economy has weakened to its worst in Europe. Europe has become dependent on the U.S. even in its military affairs, as its security could not but be left to NATO forces mainly consisting of U.S. forces.
The U.S., already the strongest in the world, will become even stronger this year. It is not because the country did something that this happened, but because investors are withdrawing their money from the other parts of the world where destructive incidents are occurring, and putting it into the U.S., as they think the country provides the most stable economic environment in the world.
The U.S. currently accounts for 25% of the world’s GDP, but it is expected that its share will exceed 30 percent soon. Russia is running out of money due to falling energy prices and its invasion of Ukraine, and some predict the possibility of its national bankruptcy in case things continue on the current path.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has become the top country in terms of the possession of energy sources. President Obama’s remark that shale gas drilling can be allowed starting this year and the passage of the Keystone pipeline bill in the House shocked OPEC to try to maintain the oil price below $50 per barrel. The U.S. has now become truly the strongest power in the world, as there is no country to check the U.S. in the struggle for hegemony since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In our homeland, South Korea, President Park Geun-hye expected 3.8 percent economic growth for this year. The political party that rejected the national anthem and flag in part of its pro-North ideological war that distressed the nation was dissolved by the Constitutional Court of Korea, and the National Assembly member who has been on trial for a conspiracy of insurrection lost his seat. A Korean-American who praised North Korea was deported from South Korea and banned from returning for five years.
With the beginning of this year, it seems that things are settling down in South Korea. Meanwhile, 1.5 percent economic regression is expected in its neighbor Japan. China is experiencing the worst economic polarization in the world, as only an extremely small number of people benefit from its economic development while most of its one-billion-plus population are unable to escape from dismal poverty. The Chinese economy is forecasted to be flat this year without significant growth from last year.
Furthermore, it is expected that protests for independence from China will continue in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as Tibet and other parts of China. South Korea, geographically stuck among world powers such as Japan, China, and Russia, still seems to have the brightest prospect for this year. It has already signed a free trade agreement with the U.S., the world’s strongest country, and it will also sign one soon with China, the second strongest. Even better news is that we are beginning to see a ray of hope for reunification with North Korea, as its isolation has worsened in the international community.
One concern, if any, is us Korean-Americans. I am talking about such shameful behavior, frowned upon by other Americans, as picketing in the middle of New York City to call for President Park’s resignation. I have never seen Jewish-Americans holding a protest criticizing Israel or Chinese-Americans holding one calling for the resignation of Xi Jinping.
I hope that we, Korean-Americans, will encourage our struggling brethren in our homeland this year. Criticizing and meddling with every issue in Korea would make us unwelcome in Korea and our place there even narrower. I hope that this year Korean-Americans will live life to the fullest here in the U.S. and more generously understand the affairs of our homeland, even if we do agree with what is happening there.
GyeongSangBuk-do invited Jay Kim as a lecturer for a special lecture held at the Provincial Government auditorium. Jay Kim frankly talked about his life stories during the lecture and emphasized “even if there is adversity in your life, do not give up on the hope for tomorrow and live your life setting goals and a dream.”