“Whatever the situation, whatever the task is, face it bravely and do your best genuinely”
Jong Bum-goo, Chairperson of Korea Youth Foundation
Q:.It is a great honor to meet you. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
A: Nice to meet you. Some of you may know me as a politician or a diplomat. Others may have seen me on TV as a host of TV debate shows. I also worked as an ambassador to Germany. Now, I am here as Chairperson of the Korea Youth Foundation.
Q: Among the careers you have experienced, which was the most memorable to you?
A: Well, I guess, it was the time I had worked as a diplomat from 2018 to 2020. It was not an easy job since I was in the position to represent our country, but it was very honorable at the same time. Another memorable career was the host of the TV debate shows for presidential candidates in 1997. I was the first person in Korea who had hosted a TV debate show of the presidential candidates. Through the TV debate, Korean viewers had a chance to get the candidates’ true character and more exact information about them and also their plans for the country. I’m sure that was a big leap in our political history.
Q: Could you tell us any special episodes or events while working as an ambassador?
A: Well, I made close friendship with the President of Germany, who I found had studied at University Giessen located very near the University of Marburg. We watched the soccer game in which our team beat Germany in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After the match we would talk jokingly about it whenever we met each other. Also, as you remember, the Winter Olympics were held in Pyeongchang in 2018, around when North and South Korea had quite an amiable relationship. I was able to build relationships with the North Korean ambassador. It is a pity that I was not able to say goodbye to him when I departed.
Q: I wonder why you chose to study in Germany when almost everyone thinks English is the most important language. In addition, what do you think about learning other foreign languages than English?
A: It was a complete coincidence. Korea was under late President Park’s military regime when almost all university students were fighting for democracy and freedom. Furthermore, some churches and Christian institutes had resisted Park’s dictatorial regime. I became engaged in this movement as a staff member of the Seoul YMCA. At that time, German churches supporting the struggle for Korean democracy had a program of selecting students to study in Germany, with the help of the Christian Academy in Korea. I applied and luckily got a chance to study in Germany.
When it comes to learning foreign languages, I definitely think we should be multi-lingual. I believe learning a language does not simply mean obtaining the grammar and words. It means getting to know the culture of the people who speak those languages. I think students should learn other foreign languages in addition to English to widen their perspective and their view of the world.
Q: Now, could you tell us about the Korean Youth Foundation?
A: The Foundation was established in 2015 to create job opportunities for the youth. Initially, the Foundation, formerly the Youth Hope Foundation, aimed to directly help young people to get employed. So, our foundation had tried to support youths seeking for jobs through some programs. However, it is practically too big a mission for a civil foundation like us. That should be done by the government.
Q: Then, what kind of work does the Foundation do for the youth now?
A: Well, currently we have big issues such as jobs, housing, and education. We have run some customized programs for employment preparation of young people, but that’s not enough. Our young people are living in a completely different era from what the middle-aged or the elderly lived. Nowadays, they experience the seriously decreasing number of job openings in the deteriorating economic situation and rapid digital revolution.
We are just a civil foundation and we ourselves cannot deal with these issues directly. That should be done by the government, as I mentioned before. I think we should try to pursue a kind of governance relationship with the government. Our government has the necessary budget and administrative resources to help the youth but it needs practical programs or ideas. We should provide or suggest them to the government.
We cannot create jobs for them, but we can act as a speaker for the youth, playing the role of a comprehensive hub for our country’s youth policies. We should deliver their voices loudly and clearly so that the policies appropriate for them can be implemented in time.
Q: Please tell us your motto in life or family precept for our readers?
A: There are many good sayings, but I’d like to tell this to them. There’s a Chinese saying sucheojagju ibcheogaejin (隨處作主 立處皆眞), which means “Try your best wherever you may be. Then you can make the place the best place.” Whatever the situation, whatever the task is, do not run away from it, rather face it bravely and do your best genuinely. Then you’ll obtain the highest achievements.
Q: Lastly, are there any words for our young readers?
A: Well, when I started my work as chairperson here, I worried a bit about whether I could communicate well enough with young people, the so-called “phono sapiens generation.” I think still I try to do it well. Considering my situation, I’d like them to know that it is important to practice yeogjisaji (易地思之) or “putting themselves into others’ shoes to get along well or do well with them. We should try to consider everything from the side of the people we meet. Then, we will be able to enjoy a much better relationship with them and obtain what we wish for.
68th Edition of The Monday Times (October 18, 2021)
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