Korea can teach us a thing or two

Korea can teach us a thing or two
There's more to Korea than just kimchii.
KUALA LUMPUR: This week, Datuk Seri Najib Razak urged Malaysians to make South Korea as a source of inspiration to unite and work together with the government, to spur the country into becoming a developed nation.

South Korea, a country with no natural resources and at the same time facing threats from its neighbour, North Korea, can serve as examples of the success story that Malaysia can emulate.

I might not know much about how we can rapidly transform our country into a high-income advanced economy like South Korea, but I know that there is more to Korea than just K-Pop, kimchii and robust development.

I went to Korea once, for five days for work. Throughout my stay there, I was introduced to some wonderful cities like Incheon, Seoul, Busan and my favourite of all is Itaewon, dubbed as Seoul’s first ‘Special Tourism District,’ for its diversity of culture, shopping, and entertainment experiences.

From these cities, I observed and learnt a lot of things that we can adopt and adapt to. And here are among the six things that I found would be good for our nation.

#1 – Good public toilet. Good toilet etiquette

All the public toilets in Korea that I went to were really clean. They were dry and many have electronic bidets that work. You will never find ‘objects’ floating in the toilet bowl.
If the toilet bowl does not come with an automatic flush system, Koreans will automatically flush it themselves after each use. You will never see shoe prints on toilet seats.

The toilets at the airport even come with plastic covered rims and the plastic cover changes automatically after each use. That to me is a landmark in bathroom technology.

#2 – Cleaning up after meal

One must put away one’s used plates, utensils or tray after each meal. I left my tray and bowl of food on my table after I had eaten was called back by a stranger asking me to put away my tray at its designated area. There’s a place for everything and everything must be in place.

#3 – Family first

The family institution is the key to wholesomeness. Cities are planned and designed to be somewhat child proof or child friendly with ample walkways and parks.

The parks there are filled with tall statues of a father, mother and a child, or children playing, some with pets.

There are dustbins at every corner making littering unacceptable.

The sidewalks are also blessed with benches; malls are equipped with cozy baby rooms. This shows that a happy family institution will eventually result into a happy country.

#4 – Fresh breaths go a long way

It is not at all unusual for a Korean to bring their toothbrush and toothpaste wherever he or she goes. There are also toothbrush holders and cups for gargling at restrooms in offices.

Koreans brush their teeth and keep their mouth clean - first thing when they wake up, after each meal and before they go to bed. They might look like they just got up from bed and straight to work on a cold day but you can always count on them for that fresh minty breath all day and night.

This means that Koreans really value and respect human interaction by making each other comfortable at all times, no bad breath guaranteed.

#5 – Discipline via routine

Koreans always start their day early. Most of them start their day by exercising.

My husband works in a Korean construction company here in KL and he starts his day at 7.30am, every morning with a 5 minute exercise which ends with staff members giving each other shoulder rubs! Yes, it might sound funny for some but it happens and results in better productivity. The early bird catches the worm.

#6 – Skinship

I am not sure if you have heard of skinship, where Korean boys and men platonically bond by touching each other like holding hands, sitting on each other’s lap and giving each other back rubs. Skinship is not at all related to anything sexual. It is more like a handshake where it is seen as basic sign of friendliness. Why do I say this is good? Skinship breaks the stigma of homosexuality. That men too, can be platonically physical with their own kind. Hence, making this band of brothers stronger than ever.

We might not be able to catch up with their robust economic development in a very short period of time but I am very sure that we can adopt the sense of belonging and unity amongst ourselves just like the Koreans, and maybe, just maybe, we will live in this diversified country without being divided.