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[Freedom Voice] 51: We Cannot Avoid Reality

이종원 | 2014.09.12 17:21 | 조회: 605 | 덧글보기(0)
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The original Korean version of “Freedom Voice #51: We Cannot Avoid Reality” was written by Freedom Factory's CEO, Chung-ho Kim, on September 11th 2014. It can be found here.

I was reading the newspaper yesterday when something caught my eye. The article said that despite the fact that the price of an apartment unit was going at a rate of ₩40 million (US$38,500) for 3.3m² (35.521ft²) worth of space, demand for apartments was still very strong. The thing that caught my eyes was not so much that the demand was still strong or even the price. It was the bit about 3.3m².

To be specific, did you know that it is illegal to state how much 3.3m² of an apartment unit or a plot of land is priced?

As far as the law is concerned, when it comes to the measurement of property, the use of the word “pyong” (a unit of measurement whereby 1m² is equivalent to 0.30 pyong) is prohibited. The law expressly states that all measurements must be made according to the metric system.

The newspaper article that I saw did not use the word “pyong.” However, the measurement – 3.3m² – is very much illegal because saying “3.3m²” is a sneaky way of saying 1 pyong. Therefore, in order for the newspaper article to have not broken any laws, it ought to have said that 1m² worth of apartment space costs ₩12,120,000 (₩40 million ÷ 3.3 = ₩1,212.121212...).

The journalist in question who wrote the newspaper article has broken the law. So, the newspaper company that employs this journalist is liable to pay a fine of up to ₩1 million. However, there is a good chance that this newspaper company will not be forced to cough up that money. That is because it is likely that no one will report the newspaper to the proper regulating authority. Whenever it comes to reporting on property prices, almost every newspaper reports on the story and does not fail to mention the magic number – 3.3m² – and I have never heard of anyone being forced to pay the fine. The law, in other words, is useless and unenforced.

Although it is a law that is never enforced, I can understand why the law was passed in the first place. If people continue to use pyong as a form of measurement, it will cause confusion when people try to use other forms of measurement, such as the metric system. Depending on the tools of objects or buildings being constructed, it could even lead to fatal accidents. If it were only possible, it would be splendid if everyone would use the metric system for all types of measurement.

But it just does not seem possible. The government has been cajoling, persuading, and threatening people to use the metric system instead of pyong for decades. Yet old habits die hard. The fact that this newspaper journalist used the number 3.3m², and the fact that this newspaper and every other newspaper that quotes this illegal number will not be punished goes to show that people have come to accept that pyong is not going anywhere. I think it is time that everyone accepts that reality.

As long as unrealistic laws are on the books, whether people accept it or not, even the most law-abiding citizen is turned into a criminal.

Seriously, is saying 1 pyong so bad that people have to resort to such foolishness as saying 3.3m²? Even when people resort to such mathematical games, it's still illegal! It only makes sense to decriminalize the use of the word pyong so that people will no longer have to worry about being thought of as criminals.

I am bringing this up because I want to point out that people seem to be doing as much as they can to ignore reality. Although ideals are important, it is also important to wake up to reality.

There are many laws that do not reflect reality. For example, as far as the law goes, people who board Express Buses must be seated. If there is a single passenger who is not seated, an express bus is not permitted to operate. However, in reality, there are many people who board Express Buses even when seats are not available. What can the bus companies do? They cannot be expected to supply more buses than they have during rush hour when there are more people who have to get to work or get home from work than there are buses. Under the circumstances, people who choose to board the buses knowing that seats are not available do so at their own risk. That is the reality of the situation and people can only act according to the hand that they are dealt.

The problem is that the law makes the action of accepting reality illegal.

The same applies to funding political campaigns. Politics requires money. Politicians have to campaign and they have to keep their supporters happy. If they don't, who would vote for them? As far as the law is concerned, that is not something that people can or ought to accept. All civic-minded people ought to scream that money should not determine politics.

Accepting campaign contributions has been illegal for decades. But what is the reality? I don't think it is a stretch to imagine that almost every politician has accepted illegal campaign contributions. Furthermore, all those people who have given money to politicians must have known that they, too, were breaking the law.

Although there is now a watch dog that oversees political campaign contributions, it is unlikely that it will make a big difference.

Reality is often ugly. It is pitiful that people still use pyong as a measurement, which, by the way, was a form of measurement that was introduced to Korea during the time when Korea was a Japanese colony. It is pitiful that Express Bus drivers still allow passengers to board their buses even though they know that there is no place to sit. It is pitiful that money is what makes politics go round.

As ugly as it may be, however, that is still our reality. We cannot avoid it. And if we cannot avoid it, we have to accept it and make the best of what we have. If people continue to deny reality and instead focus on ideals and principles, reality will only become uglier.

CEO of Freedom Factory

Chung-ho Kim

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