A Korean Defense of the Humanities


Kim Soeong-kon teaches English at Seoul National University.  Here is a taste of his piece at the Korea Herald:

Recently, I read a perceptive article that the famous basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote for the Guardian. It was entitled, “The way Americans regard sports heroes versus intellectuals speaks volumes.” In this insightful article, Abdul-Jabbar defended the hopelessly waning humanities, lamenting Americans’ infatuation with famous athletes and disrespect for intellectual giants. It was a pleasant surprise that an internationally well-known athlete emphasized the importance of the humanities and the intellectual in his article. 

The intriguing article begins with the following passage: “On 9 April 1980 more than 50,000 Parisians marched through the streets to mourn the loss of one of their own. Was it for a famous pop star, a beloved politician or a nationally treasured athlete? Nope, it was the funeral of Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existential philosopher and the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature.” Abdul-Jabbar continues, “In America, that mass public display of grief and affection is reserved for pop culture icons, not unapologetic intellectuals.” 

And this:

The problem is that if we disrespect the humanities, we lose humanism and humanity in our society. Then our society will falter from the lack of ethics and morality and suffer the consequences such as extreme materialism, sexual dissipation, and social corruption. The so-called Burning Sun scandal is one good example. In fact, there are a plethora of social problems derived from our disrespect of the humanities, such as contempt for elders and minorities, embezzlement of public funds and swindling. Indeed, all sorts of indecent and unethical things can happen in a society that disregards and dismisses the humanities. To build a better society, we desperately await the renaissance of the humanities.

Read the entire piece here.