Personal Observations: Korea – The Lamp of Asia
Secrete behind Korean Miracle could be described in few words and that is ‘sincerity, sense of ownership, education and hard work
The Korean nation has sense of ownership for their motherland. They love their cities, towns, villages, mountains, rivers; they love their language, culture, and everything including the foods, fruits and vegetables, and even the traditional pickle ‘Kimchi’
After my 10-day sojourn to South Korea in April 2016, one of the friends in Karachi asked: “What are your observations on Korea.” He was interested particularly to know the secret behind unprecedented progress and prosperity of the Korean nation, which generally is termed as ‘Korean Miracle’. “Secrete behind Korean Miracle could be described in few words and that is ‘sincerity, sense of ownership, education and hard work’” I told him. “The Korean nation has sense of ownership for their motherland. They love their cities, towns, villages, mountains, rivers; they love their language, culture, and everything including the foods, fruits and vegetables, and even the traditional pickle ‘Kimchi’” I elaborated adding that their sense of ownership and love have made them to work hard with utmost sincerity and honesty.
In fact the Korea could be named as the ‘Asian Miracle’ or as in 1929, the great scholar and philosopher Rabindarnath Tagore had called it ‘The Lamp of Asia’, which needed to be lighted – and the Korean nation and its leadership proved his words true – the Asian lamp is lighted now and the world is amazed to witness its radiance.
Looking at the statue of Rabindarnath Tagore, erected at roadside in Hyehwa area of Seoul on April 23, my last day of sojourn, I read the lines of Tagore’s poetry inscribed on the base-stone of the statue, which was published first by a Japanese newspaper Dong- A Ilbo:
In the golden age of Asia,
Korea was one of its lamp bearers.
And that lamp is waiting to be lighted once again
For the illumination in the East
I had recalled what I observed while travelling across the Korea from Seoul, Suwan, Andong, Daegu and Busan up to demilitarized zone along with 80 delegates of ‘Journalists Forum for World Peace’ from 50 countries, organized by Journalists Association of Korea. “The Korea continues to unfold itself as the world’s fast-growing economies,” I thought.
During the six decades following the Korean War, it evolved from one of the most abject states in the region to one of the most vibrant, a manufacturing powerhouse that has virtually eradicated poverty, malnutrition, and illiteracy. In a region of fast growth, since the 1960s Korea has increased its per capita GDP more quickly than any of its neighbors.
The country, which remained largely unknown to outsiders, now attracts hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists. “Around 1.3 million foreign tourists use to visit Korea annually but we are making more and more efforts to maximize this figure,” Head of the Korean Tourism Corporation Mr. Jung Chang Soo told at welcome dinner in Seoul on April 18.
It was astounding to see how the Korean nation and its leadership had developed their cities and towns and even the villages to attract the foreign tourists. Spending billions of Won, they have rebuilt the Royal Palaces, destroyed during the Japanese aggression, to restore the past glory; they have preserved the 600-year old village of Hahoe and cultural traditions like Mask Dance, residences of their intellectuals and freedom fighters etc. While preserving these ‘Treasures’, as the Korean nation has named it, they have focused on developing their cities and towns on modern lines. The Korean cities and towns could be a biggest example of world’s finest town planning. And what captivated me were the long bridges and flyovers, illustrating high standards of engineering, and the tunnels – for which I named the Korea as a ‘country of bridges, flyovers and tunnels’.
Geographically, Korea might be finding itself squeezed among two titans: China and Japan – a position that offers great challenges but economically, this country has gradually reached to its zenith, as its mighty manufacturing engine has powered it to great heights since last couple of decades. South Korea spends a bigger percentage of its GDP on research and development than Germany, the United Kingdom, or even the United States. “South Korea is number one in the world in research, as far as medical and pharmaceutical sectors are concerned,” an owner of a pharmaceutical company in Pakistan told me recently. And, a Pakistani rice factory owner praised the Korea for manufacturing the best agriculture machinery. “Although, the Korea is not an agriculture country like Pakistan, but it manufactures high quality rice-husking plants,” he told. I shared my observations about Korean agriculture and the visit to Welltural industrial complex, to the rice trader, who had been to Korea a few times for trade purpose.
All the time during our visits to different provinces, cities and towns, it made me to recall words of Visa Officer at Korean Consulate in Karachi, whom I met in 2007 when I had applied for visa to visit my ‘Dream Land’ first time. “In 1960, Pakistan was much ahead of Korea. It was fast developing country and the Korea was under-developed. Then we borrowed Pakistan’s 5-year Development Plan document and implemented it in letter and spirit, and now you will see that Korea has advanced a lot taking big strides,” the Visa Officer had told, which proved true when I landed in Korea.
Besides Korea’s development in science & technology, tourism, export, manufacturing and other sectors, another thing that fascinated me, was the social transformation. I found the Korean people law abiding and having civic sense and that was the result of high literacy rate, which is said to be around 90 percent. Neat and clean roads and streets, strict observance of traffic rules and such other things are the manifestation of their disciplined life. And above all the peace and tranquility that prevailed all over the country, which also attracts the foreign as well as domestic tourists. I was astonished to note that despite a lots of public toilets or restrooms everywhere, the ‘Toilet Festivals’ are organized to develop a civilized culture.
And last but not the least, the most enchanting aspect of Korean nation – their humbleness. They always remain happy and could be found laughing and smiling being the followers of teachings of Buddha and Confucius. I learnt about this philosophy when during the visit to Andong – known as the ‘Capital of Korean Spirit’, the journalists were presented a necklace with mask-like laughing man being the symbol of happiness. Ms. Sharon, our guide, presenting the gifts of necklaces, had told: “Wear it round the neck, and it will always make you to remember that you have to be happy and keep laughing in your life.”
About the Author
Nasir Aijaz is a senior journalist, editor of Sindh Courier, based in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province of Pakistan. He is author of nine books and hundreds of articles on language, literature, history and other topics.