About a week ago I had the opportunity to talk about joy with a group of Korean middle and high school students. Everything had to be translated into Korean, so for the sake of brevity and clarity—and because of my young audience—I tried to keep it really simple. Neither of those factors are present here, so here’s the long version.
I chose this topic because Korea has the second highest suicide rate in the world and suicide is the number one cause of death among people aged 10 to 39 in Korea. I think suicide is very high in Korea because many people feel stressed, isolated, and disappointed by the current structures they are told to find meaning within. Many people work hard in school or at their job because they are told success and achievement will bring them joy and make others accept them, but that’s not how joy works. This is not an issue specific to Korea, but I think it has a high tendency to make individuals in Korea feel trapped because of firm social patterns in which young people feel unable to escape or challenge the expectations of climbing the social ladder. Of course, I’ve met several Koreans who don’t fit into this generalization, but I believe they are an exceptional minority, and that this generalization is still true for many young people in Korea. Continue reading