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Have Pride in Ourselves
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[0호] 승인 2006.06.23  
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Summer vacation started, and I was thrilled to get out of school. After hours of riding the bus, I finally arrived at my hometown. I could have just taken a cab home, but I chose to take a long walk, just to look around for any changes in the neighborhood during my absence.

Many people were passing by the streets, all preoccupied in what they were doing. They seemed to look perfectly fine, but I couldn’t shrug off the feeling of uneasiness. It took me several minutes of standing rooted to the spot until I found out what was troubling me so.

Everybody was wearing jeans, skirts or suits, and everywhere there were skyscrapers and high buildings. After living in a dormitory for almost half a year, a school where every student had to wear hanboks - Korea’s traditional clothes - and where the buildings were built in a traditional fashion with rich tiles and smooth curves, being surrounded by people wearing western clothes suddenly seemed weird and awkward.

I believe it was during westernization when people started to go for jeans, loafers, skirts and suits, when they started to prefer blond, brown or red colored hair to jet black, and when they started to long for blue eyes rather than black eyes.

In the midst of all the casual clothes, different hair colors and the so-called “American wannabes,” I wonder if there is anybody who is truly Korean, who truly has pride in his/her nationality. It is true that our most prestigious colleges cannot even play in the same leagues with those in the States, namely Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford and so forth. It is true that the global language is English, a language far from Korean. It is also true that the leading firms and corporations come from foreign countries and very few come from Korea.

In the aspect of industry, technology and economy, one must admit that Korea still has a long way to go in order to compete with United States or Europe. However, lagging behind in various fields to other countries does not mean that we should abandon our traditions and customs in order to take after Europe.

I assert that the more we cherish our unique culture, the more we come close to competing and winning in diverse professions with other countries. Sticking to our customs, keeping our traditions and identities as Koreans, having pride in ourselves enable us to have something that cannot be competed and won over by any other country.

Our country has suffered many difficulties. There was a time when Japan reigned over our country, when they tried everything they could in order to suppress our spirits and souls. They banned us from speaking our own language, Korean, and they wedged in huge nails in our mountains and constantly harassed our people.

Our ancestors established night schools to teach Korean, for we believed that our language stands for our soul and spirit, our minds. Thanks to this, we’re able to speak our proud language, which has our history within. There was a time when we were at war with our own people.

June 25th, South Korea and North Korea were in war, killing each other, our own blood brothers. The world thought that we would never be able to unite, clicking their tongues at this pathetic sight - hatred amongst our kin. Now we’re having conferences, summits with the North. I’m sure nobody can deny that this is a huge improvement from the war, and that we are going nearer to our ultimate goal of reunification.

There was a time when we were in an economic crisis, which is more known as the IMF. It took a long time for other countries that have also gone through the IMF to stand back up. So the world thought that Korea won’t be an exception. We had a gold campaign, and Koreans from all over came with their own gold marriage rings, their own jewelries that must have meant something to them.

We spontaneously donated our gold and we were able to come through the IMF crisis successfully. Moreover, we have the ability to become one and act together as one unit, like the Red Devils and the various demonstrations that left the world in awe. During the 2002 World Cup, everybody wore bright red shirts with the same prints, “the Red Devils.” We gathered around plazas with huge screens and cheered on for our team.

When two Korean teenagers lost their lives because of an accident in the US army, we again gathered in front of the military unit with candles and brightened the night sky. We have tradition, a 5000 year old tradition and cherished culture that cannot be beaten. We have accomplished many things and overcame many difficulties. We have strong will and determination as a nation. In other words, we should be more than proud of ourselves. Westernization is needed, I admit, in today’s world.

One needs to know the cultures of another country in order to survive in a society that requires broad knowledge. Nevertheless, I firmly state that in this process of westernization, in this process of broadening our knowledge, we should never forget where we’re from, where we were born, and who we are. No matter where we go, if there is one thing that we would be able to share, it would be that we came from the same country.

We have every right and reason to be proud of ourselves. This essay won the second place of English essay category of the 25th UOS Culture Award.

Hwang In-hye
Sophomore, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
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