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.

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