Monday, October 12, 2015

Random Thoughts: The Martian and Forced Filial Piety

Thoughts about The Martian

Yesterday, I went to the movies to watch Ridley Scott's The Martian. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I had wanted to write a review of the movie but Kevin Kim, from Big Hominid, already wrote a great review for the movie, which you ought to read for yourself here.

As Kevin already covered more than I would have, seeing how I have never read the book the movie was based on, I only have one additional thing to add.

This movie is a must-see for younger Koreans, especially considering how popular the notion of “Hell Joseon” has become among many of them.

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This article from Korea Expose describes those who subscribe to the notion of Hell Joseon as those who “find no hope for South Korea; they seek only to abandon and escape the system altogether... embodies despair and hopelessness of the most extreme variety, the idea that the South Korean state cannot be redeemed through effort.”

In other words, Hell Joseon is just another incarnation of nihilism, except that it has been served with Korean lipstick. Regardless of the guise it has been portrayed, nihilism is the very antithesis of the movie's core message, which was delivered by Matt Damon's character toward the end of the movie:

You have to solve one problem and then solve the next problem, and then solve the next problem, and if you solve enough problems, you get to go home.”

This is a lesson that many people, not just Koreans, often seem to forget.

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Thoughts about Forced Filial Piety

It has been revealed that from the beginning of this year to September, the National Health Insurance Service has forced 39 people to pay for their parents' national health insurance premiums.

To be more specific, these 39 people had to pay for their biological parents' national health insurance premiums. Yes, these 39 people had been given up by their biological parents and had been adopted by other families.

This discovery was made despite the NHIS's claim that no such case existed.

I understand why someone would want to force someone's offspring to pay for their parents' medical bills if the parents themselves are unable. Firstly, the government, which knows that raising taxes is not popular, would rather that old people's medical bills be paid for by their children. Secondly, such enforced filial piety laws are probably easier to pass in Korea because of the lingering effects of (near pathological) Confucian values. And finally, though I seriously doubt it would lead to the law's intended results, the rationale behind such laws is to create “ideal” family relations.

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However, all of those factors might have some merit if we were discussing people who were raised by their biological parents. These 39 people were not raised by their biological parents and I assume that their legal ties with their biological parents ended as soon as they were adopted by other families.

It is my professional opinion that now is the time to give the NHIS the finger.

That being said, the government has long been wrestling with how to combat Korea's aging society, part of which is exacerbated by low birth rates. If people can have children, legally give them up, and still be ensured that their children will some day have to pay for their medical bills, that could be a novel way to turn Korea's birth rates around!

But I hope that you'll forgive me for not leaping for joy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One Way to Find a Seat on the Subway

Recently, a man – a senior citizen – was arrested after he was accused of assaulting a pregnant woman because she had been sitting on one of those seats at the ends of the subway cars that are usually occupied by older people. This wasn't the first time that a pregnant woman was not shown basic human decency.

In order to make seating a bit more equitable, the Seoul City government decided to do something nice for pregnant women a few months ago. It designated certain seats as reserved for pregnant women and made its intentions unmistakable by making those seats bright pink. So far, however, it has failed to work.

When I first saw those pink seats, I knew that it was not going to be terribly effective. Although people pay to ride the subway, people don't have to pay for seats. The seats are, therefore, a type of commons; and I am sure that everyone is aware of the Tragedy of the Commons.

Everyone is looking for a seat. And the seats are in short supply compared to the number of people looking for seats. When one assumes (probably correctly) that everyone else is going to look for a seat without much regard for who is left standing, there isn't much room for consideration for others.

Bellum omnium contra omnes
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If it is difficult for pregnant women to find seats on the subway, then one can only assume that the only way to find a seat in the subway is to go full speed ahead – elbowing and maiming anyone who dares to stand in your way – damn the torpedoes!

But is that the only way to find a seat? I think there has to be a better way for people to persuade others to give up their seats for the more vulnerable members of society.

One method that often comes up is to shame those people who refuse to give up their seats for pregnant women or the elderly. In fact, public shaming has been proven to be useful in many instances. In a study that was conducted by the European Commission, it was revealed that shaming was one of the more effective methods of ensuring that people paid their taxes on time because, according to the study, “the psychological costs connected with tax evasion or financial costs other than the fine can be influential factor that deter people from cheating. For example, psychological costs might arise because people fear to be detected or publically shamed.”

So, perhaps shaming those people who refuse to give up seats for pregnant women on social media might be effective.

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However, shaming might not be as effective as people think. Of course, the most obvious reason why shaming might not work, especially in Korea, is because of Korea's bizarre defamation laws. However, even if Korea's defamation laws didn't make such a fetish out of preserving people's honor, naming and shaming would still not work too well. That is because according to a study that was published by the University of Chicago, shaming someone excessively could cause the person to continue engaging in the kind of behavior that brought about the shaming in the first place.

To explain, the study focused on whether or not sex offender registries were effective. The study revealed that as sex offenders found in the registries were stigmatized and shunned by society, it reduced their job opportunities and destroyed their social lives. As a result, the registries effectively “lowered the opportunity cost of choosing crime over legal activities.” In other words, this so-called “disintegrative shaming” that resulted from the registries drove them to continue their criminal behavior and made them more likely to recidivate.

So, if people who sat on those reserved seats were named and shamed, and if the naming and shaming were “excessive,” instead of learning not to sit there in the future, they just might continue to sit there because they might think that they have nothing left to lose.

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One method that I think is rather simple and underrated is simply asking people for a seat.

In many instances, people often assume the worst about each other. So, many people might think that if we ask someone for a seat, that could lead to a verbal assault, if not an actual assault. However, that may be a false assumption. According to several studies conducted by psychologists, it has been revealed that humans are, for the most part, cooperative and selfless – almost always willing to help one's fellow Man.

Seeing how that the majority of people are good and decent, I think that simply asking whether one can sit down would be more effective (and would lead to less conflict) than simply to engage in passive aggressive behavior.

So what do you think? Do you think politely asking someone to give up his or her seat is a good idea? Or do you think it's the worst idea since techno music? Leave a comment behind and who knows? It could lead to another blog post with you as a guest blogger.
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