YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

PLATFORM : Something Is Rotten in Seoul

October 26, 1994| SUSIE MOON, a senior at Chatsworth High School, emigrated from South Korea when she was 3 years old. She comments on corruption in her native country: and

Many times my opinions have been forgiven with a condescending "she's still young." I do not require forgiveness, just an ear. So out of a desire for the betterment of Korea, I say: There is something rotten in Seoul.

The "something rotten" is the teachers, the students, the parents and everyone else who participates in bribery. During a recent trip to Seoul, I learned that bribery is rampant and was shocked that no one is taking steps to abolish it. Despite the awareness that the practice is illegal, parents offer huge sums of money to teachers so the teacher will favor their child.

The nonchalant attitudes the Koreans have developed toward this worries me greatly. If corruption is prospering at the bottom, what is to stop it from festering at the top?

The fountainhead of the recent collapse of the Songsu bridge over the Han River in Korea may be this bribery. Those responsible for the construction of the bridge--the architects, builders, businessmen and politicians--probably received their education under the safe tarpaulin of the won (unit of Korean currency). Instead of being taught history, sciences and literature, they first learned the importance of money. After giving money to administrators for entrance into a prestigious middle or secondary school or university, these students probably forked over another bundle to guarantee further success.

These same people may have received a certain amount to build the bridge, used a meager portion in the actual construction and the rest in the purchase of a fifth television set and other luxuries.

In one of Korea's top universities a few years back, the director of the dance department was found guilty of having received bribes from students. Her response to the verdict was something to the effect of "How dare you! I'm a prominent member of the church."

Many say there is no honesty or respectability in the Korean educational system. No future can exist when the ones who are to inherit the land are as morally underdeveloped as their predecessors.

The fall of the bridge is a metaphor for the decline of Korean morality and should be seen as a warning. The first step toward change is recognizing that the belief that wealth supersedes talent is just a myth.

Caught between a cultural rock and a hard place puts me in a strange situation. I wish to see a huge improvement in the bad aspects of the Korean society and yet I am angry and resentful that Korean society should be this way in the first place.

Los Angeles Times Articles