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Balancing Tradition and Progress
Hwang Hae-soo  |  haisoo08@cau.ac.kr
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승인 2017.08.06  19:37:10
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If tradition is a collective term that refers to the values of the past, then modern people would not feel obligated to keep it intact since it would be considered as a useless relic of what once was useful to society, but has currently lost its value. A sure example of such behavior would be how contemporary Korean society trades cultural uniqueness for the pursuit of efficiency and convenience. While it’s easy to think that such tradeoffs are inevitable in the fast changing, competitive nature of global communities, there are cases of developed countries that have successfully preserved culture and used it to their advantage in their growing progress. Why Bother with the Old? While there are cliché arguments such as how the identity crisis of today’s citizens is related to the blurring of cultural traits, such hold no power in a world where the frontrunners of humankind’s ideals are individualism and pragmatism. Yet, the real reason behind the importance of traditional values lies in the very essence of the two combined. It would be an understatement to say that the world revolves around the typical capitalist system, and therefore tradition, as far-fetched as it sounds, is a necessary tool to ensure further benefits like profits and fame. While cases of the commercialization of tradition will be showcased later, the basic idea remains the same regardless of countries; tradition is a currency that can be exchanged into financial, corporal, or even workplace values. Korea Now But before considering successful attempts of merging traditional and modern values, one must study the current environment of the nation beforehand, to correctly compare and improve from the situation at hand. The Korean traditional market has long lost favor of younger generations, and even promised attempts at reforming local stores to accommodate tradition have failed to acquire wanted results. The tourism industry is better off, but still shows a consistent decline in number of tourists each year, with even Korean’s preferring to visit other countries for vacation instead of visiting national places. Examples of Other Countries Italy Italy’s tourism industry is undoubtedly far more successful in terms of fame and profit compared to Korea’s. Venice is known to have more tourists than actual residents, with 20,000 new tourists visiting every day during the vacation season. Such success probably has to do with national pride. Since it’s hard to compare such subjective character between countries, one can instead examine the difference by looking at social phenomena. An example would be how Italy’s pride for its quality in Italian made items stretch far enough to account for the taste of its cuisine. Compared to Korea, where it’s hard to tell the difference of a place that serves quality food and not merely a copied version of it, Italian residents consider not only taste as the criteria of good food, but also the ingredients and ambience related to diners in everyday conversations. This is not to say that Koreans don’t care about good ingredients, but rather that the social trend is less skewed when it comes to grading restaurants according to taste. The result is the difference in connotation of “made in Korea” and “fatto in Italia.” The U.S The United States is well known for its stereotypical image of ignorant and overly confident cowboys, but behind such flamboyancy is a national history shorter than most of its global neighbors. Such characteristics are most evident in the first episode of the Newsroom, where a blond sorority student is seen asking renown political thinkers the question “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” The answer is devastating to say the least, as the interviewee slaughters the audience with facts and criticism towards the ignorant generation for all to see. But regardless, such confidence in national character is surely of some value, such as a sense of unity based on culture and tradition. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Korea should follow the footsteps of the above-mentioned countries. Rather, the country should learn how to successfully use shared tradition as an item to enhance commerce and unity. Doing so would not only re-define Korea as an economically developed nation, but also result in a socially sound cultural landscape.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >
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