Often, whenever I feel the growing, gnawing dread that Filipinos are beginning to accept corruption as a way of life in the country, I read an essay about the Philippines written by a Korean student, Jaeyoun Kim. He noted that Korea and the Philippines had similar problems. Like many Filipinos who cried about the state of the Philippines, Jaeyoun Kim also cried about the state of his but this never stopped him from loving Korea.
I had written about Kim’s essay some years back but I believe it’s worthwhile reprinting it because I consider it timeless and it would make a good start for 2015. Here’s Jaeyoun Kim’s essay, edited to fit the space allotted to this column.
“Filipinos always complain about the corruption in the Philippines. Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines.
“Let me first talk about my country, Korea. It might help you understand my point. After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Koreans had to start from scratch because entire country was destroyed after the Korean War, and we had no natural resources.
“Koreans used to talk about the Philippines, for Filipinos were very rich in Asia. We envy Filipinos. Koreans really wanted to be well off like Filipinos. Many Koreans died of famine. My father and brother also died because of famine. Korean government was very corrupt and is still very corrupt beyond your imagination, but Korea was able to develop dramatically because Koreans really did their best for the common good with their heart burning with patriotism.
“Koreans did not work just for themselves but also for their neighborhood and country. Education inspired young men with the spirit of patriotism. Forty years ago, President Park took over the government to reform Korea He tried to borrow money from other countries, but it was not possible to get a loan and attract a foreign investment because the economic situation of South Korea was so bad. Korea had only three factories. So, President Park sent many mine workers and nurses to Germany so that they could send money to Korea to build a factory. They had to go through horrible experience.
“In 1964, President Park visited Germany to borrow money. Hundreds of Koreans in Germany went to the airport to welcome him and cried there as they saw the President Park. They asked to him, ‘President, when can we be well off?’ That was the only question everyone asked to him. President Park cried with them and promised them that Korea would be well off if everyone works hard for Korea, and the President of Germany got the strong impression on them and lent money to Korea. So, President Park was able to build many factories in Korea.
“Many Korean scientists and engineers in the USA came back to Korea to help developing country because they wanted their country to be well off. Though they received very small salary, they did their best for Korea. They always hoped that their children would live in well off country. Many Koreans have a great love for Korea so that we were able to share our wealth with our neighborhood. The owners of factory and company distributed their profit to their employees fairly so that employees could buy what they needed and saved money for the future and their children.
“Have you cried for the Philippines? I have cried for my country several times. I also cried for the Philippines because of so many poor people. My mother who has been working for Catholic Church since I was very young told me that I have to love Filipinos and do good things for them because all of us are same and have received a great love from God. I want Filipinos to love their neighborhood and country as much as they love God so that the Philippines will be well off. I am sure that love is the keyword, which Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once. It should start from person. Love must start in everybody, in a small scale and have to grow. A lot of things happen if we open up to love. Let’s put away our prejudices and look at our worries with our new eyes.
“I discover that every person is worthy to be loved. Trust in love, because it makes changes possible. Love changes you and me. It changes people, contexts and relationships. It changes the world. Please love your neighborhood and country.”