Read the World, Be the Change
Read the World, Be the Change
  • Koo Kim Gyohyun
  • 승인 2014.12.05 18:01
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“What made us stop reading?” asked a reporter to two friends.  “Korean society requires too much of us.” “Is it really necessary for us to read?”  Reflecting on their answers, the reporter entered deep thought.  Have people lost the desire to read in today’s highly competitive society?  Or unlike traditional thought, is reading really necessary?  To investigate these ideas, the reporter challenged herself to read during her spare time for an entire week.  One week of reading during late November became the ladder to the answer.

What Humans Live By

Recently, media published stale yet still surprising statistics about reading in Korea.  Throughout the course of one year, elementary school students read approximately 65.1 books, secondary school students 15.9 books, and people over 20 read 9.2 books on average.1   As people aged, the less they read.  Moreover, at the library, the list of the best-sellers among people in their twenties was limited to novels, travel books, and appellatives.  They mostly likely read before going to bed or read interesting fairy tales throughout the day as a child; however, growing older, they do not have time to read.  However, among a day’s 24 hours, people typically spend 6.5 hours sleeping, 8 hours at work or school, and 6 hours doing other activities including assignments and eating.  Then, what do people do with the remaining 3.5 hours?  Surely, it depends on individuals or differs according to one’s schedule, however, the reporter found that after a week’s experiment, one would have time at least twice a week to read for 30 minutes to an hour.  In this sense, the reporter started to use her spare time for reading.  She focused on reading during breaks between classes and on public transportation.


Reading Occurs at Anytime and Anywhere

The whole process began with carrying two books borrowed from the library.  By carrying the books about, they would always be in sight.  It turned out to be easier than expected to read on the subway and during spare times between classes.  The first book the reporter chose was The Stranger by Albert Camus.  It was hard to forgo the temptation to turn on the laptop, however, following Meursault's puzzling behavior, the reporter read half of the book in just 2 hours at school.  Before going to bed, the rest of the book was finished.  The challenge was on. One book finished successfully on the first day.  Thinking “this is not so hard,” the reporter felt the often heard excuse “shortage of time” to be false, and went to bed feeling elated yet heavy feeling.
The next day, the reporter had to go to World Cup Stadium to take photos for an article.  Still, reading was possible.  Leaving for the Stadium, the reporter grabbed the book, I Wear Hanbok to Hongdae not only because there was an interview scheduled with the author but also because she felt curious.  It took 30 minutes to get to the stadium but since the book used simple, easy words, one third of the book was easily read.  Since the reporter usually used a smart phone on public transportation, she wondered whether others saw her as being out of the ordinary.  However, no one even gave her any mind.  The only backbreaker was the temptation to use a smart phone.  By the end of weekend, the second book was done.  In just three days, she’d read two books.


Shared Joy is Double Joy

Once the reporter had read two books, she was suddenly overcome with a sense of doubt.  Once the week’s reading challenge ended, would she still continue to read?  To investigate whether it was a temporary window, she decided to give continuous motivation to the project.  A sparkling idea arose: ‘what if I shared my readings with others through SNS and book reviews?’  From that day, the reporter introduced interesting books to friends by uploading her person reviews about the books.  On the first day book review posting was done about ‘Is Meursalt free, and is he guilty?’  Her friends was not impressed and even had sour faces.  However, after reading through the reporter’s book review, some of her friends also left comments about the book.  Suddenly, the reporter’s timeline, full of pictures of food and selfies, took a small change to small talk about the characters in the book.  Feeling inspired by others’ responses, the reporter started to voice opinions on the events and characters in the book by reflecting upon herself.  One of her friends then introduced her favorite book and the reporter suddenly entered an unfamiliar field, art.  Like this, a minor change to one’s behavior can influence others positively.


Inexpensive and Portable Heritage

In the end, three books including F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were read during the week.  At this rate, one could read a hundred books in under a year.  It must be said that the reporter is not living leisurely but like other typical students who live life fed up with mountainous assignments and classes.  Plus, she is working hard as a student reporter for SMT.  Over the last week, the reporter discovered the reason people do not read is not due to a lack of time.  There is always time to read.  Rather people today do not have the mindset to read.  Some people condemn people who post comments on their SNSs about reading books as pretentious.  Not surprisingly, the reporter also once held those thoughts whenever her friend said, “You have time to read? What a life of leisure.”  Not knowing the true value of books; how ignorant ‘we’ were today.
As Descartes once said, “Reading good books is the same as having a conversation with the greatest people for the last few centuries.”  By reading, one can listen to other’s inner voice without having to meet in person, one can live in a 20th century French village, and one can have the surrealistic experience of taking a trip backwards through time.  People are tired of being encouraged to read; nevertheless, there must be a reason why successful people across the ages and in all countries of the world emphasize reading as the source of their success.  The world can be divided into two communities: one that has never read, and the other that leads the world.  There is nothing cheaper and enjoyable as reading.  Perhaps, you might now consider changing the world by reading, and invaluable experience worth more than expensive consultations or lectures.


1 Kim Judong et al., “Ignorant Korea... Don’t Put on Airs, Take those Books Away from Me,” Moneytoday, July 25, 2014

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