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Mayor's Hope Journal2

  • Death from Overwork is My Dream?
    [Mayor Park Won Soon’s Administrative Journal 04]

  • Mayor's Hope Journal2 SMG 2093

    Death from Overwork is My Dream?

    Today, I had a long interview with Shindonga Magazine. A reporter asked me some quite tricky questions. In one of them he defined me as a ‘workaholic’ and insisted that I had mentioned that ‘death from overwork is my dream.’

    That is right. In fact, I said that at the New Year’s opening office ceremony around 2003 when I was an executive director of the Beautiful Store. However, please don’t misunderstand that, it didn’t mean that I want to work myself into an early grave. How on earth could a sane, rational person say something like that?

    These days, there is a popular numerically-based expression, ‘9988234’, which roughly means “live healthily up to 99 years old and then, after 2 or 3 days, die quick” (“die” is the same as the number 4 in Chinese characters). Actually, I have seen a lot of cases of elderly persons who had been sick in bed for a long time and caused their family and friends much worry as well, and in the end they passed away. To tell the truth, I meant that I wanted to die quickly without too much suffering while I was working on site, rather than to die in such a tragic way. When I explained it to the reporter, he seemed relieved.

    A few days ago, I was impressed by an article I read by chance about a book on Joseon kings’ lives in the new book column of a newspaper. The life of a Joseon king was indeed a 3D (Difficult, Dangerous, Dirty) job! The king had a tight schedule every day, getting up early in the morning and visiting the elders for greetings, attending a banquet or meetings, approving official tasks, dealing with civil complaints, learning, and so on. It was written that King Sejong even got up at two or three o’clock in the morning to deal with any works he’d left undone. I was very pleased and felt consoled when I read this article, because it proves that it is normal to sleep less and devote more time to the work of the mayor of Seoul, who is after all responsible for the lives of ten million citizens.

    However, I know well that it is very dangerous to declare “I am a workaholic” to the world, as Seoul City public servants would be very fearful and feel a sense of crisis when they hear that, as they cannot help being sensitive to every movement of the mayor.

    I used to concentrate on working without any concerns when I worked for civil movements. However, now, I am the Mayor of Seoul, so how can I work in such an obvious way? I have become more cautious. My goal is to leave the office as soon as possible and to watch the 9 o’clock news on TV at home. And I tell civil servants that they must take days off (throughout the year?), take a full break of several holidays when public holidays are interspersed with workdays, and also find the time to study. If I want to convince them, then I need to take days off myself sometimes and go on vacation. Even I force myself to do that. All things considered, the Mayor of Seoul is a tough job.

    Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
    Life is but an empty dream!
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
    And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real! Life is earnest!
    And the grave is not its goal
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
    Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
    Is our destined end or way
    But to act, that each to-morrow
    Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting
    And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
    Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
    In the bivouac of Life
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
    Be a hero in the strife!

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
    Let the dead Past bury its dead!
    Act,—act in the living Present!
    Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time

    Footprints, that perhaps another
    Sailing o’er life’s solemn main
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
    Seeing, shall take heart again

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
    Learn to labor and to wait.

    [ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow-A Psalm of Life ]