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[Editorial] On the subway

A 2 minute video clip on YouTube and other websites showing a brawl between an old woman and a teenage girl in a Seoul subway train revealed a disturbing aspect in public morality.

The scene starts with the old lady, who says she was born in 1938, scolding the young girl for abusing at her in reaction to her admonishing the girl for sitting cross-legged and smearing her pants with soiled shoes. The girl used none of the deferential language due for a senior counterpart. She screamed and shouted, “I hate Korea, dad,” (in Korean) as the aggressive old woman pushed her and pulled her by the hair from one side of the aisle to the other. The young girl did not respond physically but returned to her seat and dialed her cell phone seemingly to her father, screaming hysterically.

No one in the coach attempted to intervene to stop the scuffle. Only some voices were heard blaming both parties for their rude behavior. Internet users’ comments were divided: Many reproved the young girl for failing to show the basic attitude toward the older passenger, others found fault with the old lady for picking up a quarrel and losing the manners of the aged. Some also deplored the nonchalant onlookers.

Subway coaches sometimes become the scenes of unfriendly confrontation between strangers, particularly ugly cases being spats between people of different generations, over the sharing of seats and the use of mobile phones. Older people tend to express their disapproval of certain acts by those younger than themselves that they regard intolerable, while the scolded often have no sense of guilt or even abnormality.

Things seem to be getting worse, but it should be recognized that Korea is one of the few countries in the world where young students willingly concede their seats to older people even though there are sections reserved for the aged. The subway video clip, disgusting though it may be, awakened all to the need to maintain this good aspect of our society.