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[Kim Ji-hyun] Looking forward, not back

A few years ago, I was going through a very rough patch personally. There was a person I couldn’t bear to forgive. It’s not like I didn’t have a hand in the matter, but due to a complicated web of reasons -- which tends to be the case in close relationships -- I couldn’t bring myself to move on.

For months, I spent all my free time either strategizing revenge, or seething in silent rage. Then I happened to see this painting on my sister’s wall. It was an amateur piece of work, but the words written on it were mesmerizing: If you choose to hate, it will take up every single day of your life. But if you choose to forgive, it takes only a day.

It’s strange how words can have such a powerful effect, or perhaps my feelings had simply run their course. I gave up my fight that day.

Korea, however, seems to be still going at it, every single day. Every day I tune into the news, and I see endless stories about how yet another former government official will be prosecuted, or how certain laws will be turned upside down.

It’s almost like people should be cautious about working in the civil service, or becoming president, as it appears that everything you do will come back to bite you. In Korea, to be free of any kind of backlash, you need to be poor, have no kids and have no hobbies.

Former Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye are exceptions. Unless we are reading this all wrong -- and unless they are pawns in a game that even President Moon Jae-in has no inkling of -- both appear to have made very bad decisions.

However, it makes no sense to me to try and get back at an entire administration, to spend so much time and taxpayers’ money on vindication, and to have so many people consumed by rage.

One recent example I can think of is BMW. We were beginning to think that the company was going to soon replace all Hyundai cars -- that was how fast it was growing. Then it hit a bump in the form of engine fires, and drew flak because let’s face it, it’s a serious issue.

BMW will continue to pay its dues. But things seem to be taking an ugly turn now. It’s mainly the media -- publications that seem to have no relation to cars whatsoever are writing up stories that are mainly a rehash -- joined by some “black consumers.”

It is understandable why some would want to play up this knowledge, but for a company that has made quite a bit of contribution to the country, it seems like some of the feedback is too harsh. Figures show that the company spent 28 trillion won ($24.6 billion) in total on building logistics and R&D centers here, and also on auto parts. It also created around 5,000 new jobs.

We should always strive to correct mistakes, and the focus right now should be on the future. Not just BMW, but any company or individual that has made mistakes should -- and must -- try to overcome them and put in place preventative measures.

But a lot of the time, we spend more time going over the bad stuff, rather than trying to move forward. That’s why we need opinion leaders to push us out of that bad place and make a fresh beginning. People without any ulterior motives, without personal issues.

Whenever there was a new king on the throne back in the Joseon era, whatever the previous king did would always face criticism, and in extreme cases, annihilation. This won’t change, no matter how modern politics becomes.

But we can decide to move forward. Flawed as they may be, laws and authorities are there to right wrongs. Leave the punishment to them.

Traditionally, social punishment has played a big role in augmenting government power. In this day and age, however, true power comes from learning to show generosity when deserved, and to have the energy and courage to move forward, and not backward.

Kim Ji-hyun
The writer is the managing editor of The Investor. -- Ed