Police offices and fire stations in Korea used to be troubled with a number of fake emergency calls on April Fool’s Day in the past. It is no longer so.
The police department and the emergency operations center in Seoul said they received no prank calls on this year’s April Fool’s Day last Tuesday. Not many fake calls were reported in other metropolises and provinces across the country either.
The decrease in mischievous callers, which was attributed largely to strengthened punishments and suits for damages, may suggest our society is becoming more mature.
But it also seemed that few harmless pranks were carried out among coworkers or friends on the latest April Fool’s Day. The reality may be that most Koreans have been so squeezed into fierce competition and hard times as to forget the existence of the day or lose their sense of humor.
April Fool’s Day was observed in a paradoxical way this year by a small group of religious and academic figures who launched a campaign to replace it with what they call the Day of Will. They have argued that people should reflect on the meaning of life and death by drawing up their will in advance on the day instead of indulging themselves in meaningless frivolous acts.
It appears that their argument makes some sense in Korean society, where there remains a tendency to avoid looking squarely into the matter of death and to hesitate to make necessary preparations. It is common here for bereaved family members to be embroiled in inheritance disputes due to the absence of valid wills left by their late parents or siblings.
Many Koreans now seem to be in need of a more positive, practical and realistic attitude toward preparing for death. Designating a day for drawing up a will in advance may help promote and spread this trend. As a result, it can be expected that Korean society as a whole will become more mature and less quarrelsome.
The practice of drafting one’s will beforehand ― and revising it from time to time depending on individual needs ― may also have the positive effect of making the hard and distressful lives of Koreans more reflective, harmonious and, above all, happier.
In the course of drawing up a will, a person may have candid talks with his or her family members and friends, affirming trust and love between them. Setting their sights on the final day of their lives is likely to help people rethink the most fundamental values they should pursue and ease their everyday grievances or agonies.
In a recent poll by a vernacular daily of 1,200 adults across the country, more than half of the respondents said they felt unhappy with their present lives. Korea ranked 41st in the 156-nation list of the 2013 World Happiness Report published by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
A starker indicator of the gloomy aspect of Koreans’ lives may be their suicide rate, which has been the highest among the 34 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for the past several years. The rate, which expresses the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 people, has more than tripled over the last two decades, with a government report showing about 15 percent of Koreans have thought of committing suicide at least once.
The Day of Will campaign deserves wider attention and support. Put into practice, the idea would benefit Koreans in many ways. But it need not necessarily replace April Fool’s Day when Koreans can feel more delighted by exercising their sense of humor in benign ways. The last day of each year, for example, may be more suitable for reflecting on the future.