Soju, licor de alma para los coreanos
Over the past few decades, Korea has grown rapidly both in terms of hard and soft power. Despite this growth being something to celebrate, it raises mixed emotions within me. As mentioned by my dad, he refers to Soju, the national alcoholic beverage to be the “magic ingredient” to Korea’s economic growth post Korean war.
Drinking for many salary men was a form of escapism from the hardship of the day, a short term distraction to release the tension. However, with any kind of distraction the temporary feeling of freedom is just an illusion, the sun rises and you’re back in the rat race.
I am aware that I am coming from a privileged place of a time where the past generations have provided us a higher standard of living for our generations. We have the extra head-space to think and to intellectualize about life. (Although our generations are also dealing with our traumas and stress, often them being transgenerational). I can assume that in those days, contemplating about the meaning of life was not in discussion, because the number one priority was putting food on the plate. I do not blame them as individuals. But I do ask myself how in the big scheme of things, was it worth the generational sacrifice for the greater good of national growth? Is that fair for them? And had that rapid growth meant strong growth? Is our cultural influence rooted on solid grounds? Especially with Hallyu I have worries that it is a short trend that will die out in a few years, taking the same time to collapse as it took to grow. These thoughts produce other questions on the blurry boundaries of authenticity and patriotism, but that I will explore in another time.
To exemplify my concern, I think about Squid Game, and how every Asian shop, Korean or non-korean, was selling Dalgona. It felt like they were taking advantage of the hype for profit without giving consumers at least any contextual background of dalgona itself.
My question these days is how do we make sustainable cultural growth? I think it's an important mission for our generation and the coming ones to focus on sustainable and steady cultural growth.
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