"So, I am getting married next year," Kenny told me over the phone one day, after us having drifted apart since high school. As much as I appreciated his gesture to keep in touch with me and however much I wished him the best, I could not avoid noticing that he was slightly flaunting his marriage as a sign of his success. That was somehow reminiscent of the last time I had gotten unsolicited advice from a self-righteous Korean friend of the same age about the "proper" age for marriage and career.
At this point, I cannot remember any single conversation with Korean friends or acquaintances that did not involve them rattling off their small achievements. Do Koreans live their lives or to be happy or to be the "fittest" of society? It made me contemplate the whole definition of "happiness" and "success."
The definition of "happiness" or "success" might be different for every person in the world. Though, whenever I imagine happy, successful people, I think of American families I met through my high school years in the US. Those families did things that I had hardly experienced with my own: going to church every weekend together, going to the movies together, eating every dinner together to have a small talk at the table, etc. They gave me insight into what a happy, successful version of me in the future would look like: having a happy family.
Unfortunately, many of my Korean friends do not seem to share the same value. They do not stop narrating stories about their "wealth" in the midst of our conversations. It is uncertain if it is Korea's competitive education system that has pushed Koreans to study hard even before they enter middle school or their obsession with others' opinions on them. However, it seems obvious to me that many Koreans strive to impress others.
According to the World Happiness Index, Korea is ranked at 54th (out of 156 countries) in 2019 (slipping from its 41st place in 2013), and it has a notoriously high suicide rate. So, arguably, many Korean people are not happy, despite the superficial happiness that they try to sell.
As I am writing this, I am not even sure if I am happy either. At least I feel better as I can share my feelings through writing. Maybe my Korean friends should share their defects and worries instead of living ostentatiously; It feels way better than simply showing off your money.
Dylan Yang; firstname.lastname@example.org