Behind South Korea’s rebirth
The May 20 cover story, “Seoul power,” is fitting recognition of the enormous progress made by South Korea in recent decades. Its prosperity comes with the challenges of heightened consumerism and fierce academic competition.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Chuncheon in the 1960s, I watched my impoverished students work long hours to succeed. There were 60 middle school boys in each class – a sea of shaved heads. Most were wearing threadbare uniforms. Some were barefoot. A potbellied stove was our only heat in the harsh winter, and broken windows let snow blow right in. We often did physical exercises to accompany the English lessons, trying to fight the cold.
For several years the South Korean government has invited former Peace Corps volunteers to return as guests. Nearly half a century has made the Korea of my memory unrecognizable. My former school has heat, electricity, bathrooms, cafeteria, computer and science labs, and even an indoor swimming pool. The boys have crisp uniforms and trendy spiked hair. Classes are small; books and technology are everywhere.
I missed seeing women in traditional dress and kimchi pots lined up in gardens, but South Korea has developed into a major power with its longstanding commitment to education. I recently attended a dinner in Washington, D.C., with the new president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye. She honored Peace Corps volunteers and veterans of the Korean War, among others. Many hearts and hands have supported Korea’s rebirth.
Ann Beckman Hymes
St. Michaels, Md.
Selling fear to sell guns?
The article “America’s disconnect on gun violence” in the May 20 issue points out that although gun violence has decreased, polls show Americans think it has increased and that this perception may be “partly responsible for the growth of gun ownership across the US in the past 20 years.”
This brought to mind the old consumer marketing adage: Create a problem, and then offer a solution that can be met by your product. Good marketing (in this case, fear of violence driving desire for protection) leads to advertising for guns and a predictable increase in demand.