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2016년 4월

2016년 4월 4일 (월요일)

Politicians and a slip of the tongue

Senseless remarks can be a more painful torture for the listeners than simple profanities. Intended to attack the weakness to show off the speaker’s superiority, senseless remarks are sometimes even despicable. More than often, the speaker completely forgets about his or her slip of the tongue. Such forgetfulness used to lead to the tedious game of truth or lie frequently, but thanks to the advent of an IT era where everything is recorded, feigning innocence does not work anymore.

Controversy is brewing over the degrading remarks made by spokesperson Ju Jin-hyeong of the national economic situation room of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, which was apparently targeted at Chief Campaigner Kang Bong-gyun of the ruling Saenuri Party, who is in his 70s. About Kang’s appointment, Ju made remarks such as “Somebody called an old retiree…,” “They are using the old man as a figurehead…,” “Personality-wise, he used to be normal. I feel sorry for the old man…” It is doubtful if his mental health is sound, given that such remarks were made publicly during a national assembly briefing, not even at a bar. It is all the more disgraceful for him as Chairman Kim Jong-in from the same party is four years older than Kang.
A former CEO of Hanwha Investment & Securities, Ju entered the political field in February this year, recruited by Chairman Kim. He has been notorious for his reckless remarks since he was a corporate worker. “Don Quixote” and “Mr. Sharp Tongue” were some of his nicknames. He briefly held the limelight recently when he uploaded a post criticizing his party’s bad old habits on his Facebook account, earning the reputation as a man of integrity. A sharp tongue may be his thing; however, the spokesperson needs to draw a line between frankness and senselessness.

Back in the 17th presidential race, former lawmaker Chung Dong-yeong said, “Senior citizens in their 60s and 70s can rest at home. They don’t have to vote,” and he is still paying the price for it, branded as the first lawmaker to publicly denigrate the senior members of society. During the 19th general elections, Kim Yong-min, a candidate from the then Democratic United Party, said, “In order to stop old people staging protests, we can remove all the escalators and elevators at the City Hall Station.” Moreover, his campaign was derailed as a foot-in-mouth remark that he made seven years earlier in an Internet show was disclosed. According to a study conducted by Professor Park Won-ho of Seoul National University, 32 percent of the supporters who broke away from the Democratic Party cited the controversy over Kim’s foul language as reason behind their change of heart. As the saying goes, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

막말은 때로 쌍욕보다 더 듣는 이를 고통스럽게 한다. 자신의 우위를 과시하려고 상대의 약점을 찌르기 때문에 비겁하기까지 하다. 막말 하는 사람은 자기가 한 말을 잘 기억하지 못하는 특성도 있다. 이런 건망증 때문에 막말은 종종 “내가 언제?”라는 진실 게임으로 번지곤 하지만, 정보기술(IT) 세상인 요즘 모든 게 기록으로 남기에 오리발도 소용이 없다.

▷70대인 새누리당 강봉균 선대위원장을 겨냥한 더불어민주당 주진형 국민경제상황실 대변인의 노인 폄훼성 막말로 시끄럽다. 주 대변인은 “집에 앉은 노인을 불러다가” “놀고 있는 분 모셔다가 얼굴 마담으로 쓰는 것” “나름 인격적으로 이상한 분은 아닌 걸로 아는데 노년에 조금 안타깝다”고 했다. 술자리도 아닌 국회 브리핑에서 버젓이 인격모독 막말을 쏟아낸 정신상태가 의심스럽다. 더구나 자당 김종인 비상대책위 대표(76)가 강 위원장보다 네 살 더 많으니 누워 침 뱉기다.

▷한화증권 사장 출신인 주 대변인은 올 2월 김 대표가 영입해 정치에 입문했다. 증권업계에 몸담고 있을 때부터 거침없는 언행으로 자주 구설에 올랐다. ‘돈키호테’ ‘미스터 쓴소리’라고 불렸다. 최근 자신의 페이스북에 글을 올려 “아직도 더민주당은 구습에서 벗어나지 못했다”고 질타해 바른말을 하는 사람으로 잠시 유명해졌다. 아무리 거침없이 말하기가 ‘특기’라 해도 바른말과 막말은 구별해야 하지 않을까.

▷정동영 전 의원은 17대 총선 때 “60, 70대 노인분들은 투표 안 하고 집에서 쉬셔도 된다”고 했다가 지금도 ‘노인 폄훼 발언의 원조’로 곤욕을 치르고 있다. 19대 총선 때는 김용민 당시 민주통합당 후보가 “노인네들이 시청에서 시위하지 못하도록 하려면 시청역 에스컬레이터, 엘리베이터를 모두 없애면 된다”고 말한 데다 7년 전 인터넷 방송에서 한 막말까지 폭로되면서 선거에 악영향을 끼쳤다. 서울대 박원호 교수의 연구에 따르면 당시 민주당 후보 지지 이탈자의 32%가 김용민 막말 파문을 이유로 꼽았다고 한다. 원래 미꾸라지 한 마리가 흙탕물을 만드는 법이다.




Getting graphic at last

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has unveiled ten samples of pictorial warnings that will be required on cigarette packs from the end of this year. Five labels are designed to warn of cancer and other health threats from smoking. The others illustrate the harms of secondary smoking and smoking during pregnancy.

The labels will go on cigarette packs available from Dec. 23. The warning labels will be coming into force for the first time since a related bill was proposed in 2012. It will be 15 years behind Canada, which was the first country to implement graphic warning labels in 2001. Korea has been lagging in its anti-smoking campaign. The smoking rate among its male population was 43.1 percent in 2014, ranking first among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The only anti-smoking policy of the government was cigarette price hikes and we deferred pictorial warning labels that were strongly recommended by the World Health Organization. 

The effect of graphic warnings to contain smoking has been proven in various empirical studies. The smoking rate in Canada was brought down to 18 percent from 24 percent in five years and in the UK it went from 27 percent to 19 percent in 10 years. Yet Korea stuck to its price policy. By upping the price on all cigarettes by 2,000 won ($1.74) per pack last year, the government vowed to lower the smoking rate to the OECD average of 29 percent. But the price hike merely boosted tax revenue by 3.6 trillion won last year. In fact, it was the government that primarily benefited from the policy at the expense of smokers. 

The pictorial warnings must be implemented well in order to put the anti-smoking campaign back on track. Some of pictures are gruesome. Public interest is already piqued. 

But the details still need to be refined. Experts say the images should be placed on the top half of the front of the pack instead of the bottom half for greater effect. Countries that mandate graphic labels require them to go on the top half. Cigarette packs also should be more visible in stores. The warning image should take up a larger space. It currently is required to cover more than 50 percent of the front of the pack, but warning labels in Canada must take up 75 percent. In Australia they take up to 95 percent. Fine-tuning is definitely needed.

담뱃갑 경고그림, 더 과감하게 표시하라

보건복지부가 올해 말부터 담뱃갑에 인쇄할 경고그림 시안 10종을 공개했다. 폐암·후두암 등 5개 질병과 간접흡연·임산부흡연 등 질병 외 5개다. 오는 6월까지 최종안이 확정되면 12월23일부터 본격 시행된다. 답뱃갑 경고그림 부착은 관련 법안이 첫 발의됐던 2002년 이후 14년 만이다. 2001년 세계 최초로 도입한 캐나다보다 15년 뒤졌다. 

사실 우리의 금연정책은 그동안 후진적이었다. 성인 남성의 흡연율이 43.1%(2014년 기준)로 경제협력개발기구(OECD)회원국 중 1위인데도 세계보건기구(WHO)가 권고하는 경고그림 같은 강력한 비(非)가격 정책에 뒤졌다. 경고그림의 효과는 이미 입증됐다. 캐나다는 5년 만에 흡연율을 24%에서 18%로, 영국은 10년 만에 27%를 19%로 각각 떨어뜨렸다. 반면 우리는 가격통제만 고집했다. 지난해 일률적으로 2000원을 인상하면서 2020년까지 OECD 평균 수준(29%)으로 흡연율을 낮추겠다고 했다. 값 인상으로 지난해 세수가 3조6000억원이나 불었다니 금연 유발 효과가 있기나 한 것인지 의문이다. 애꿎은 애연가 주머니를 털어 세수를 메꾸는 게 아닌가. 

불신을 씻으려면 경고그림을 잘 정착시켜야 한다. 구멍 뚫린 후두암 환자의 목, 태아로 향하는 임신부의 담배 연기, 남성 하반신의 '고개 숙인' 담배꽁초 등 시안은 충격적이다. "너무 자극적이고 혐오스럽다" "더 입맛 떨어지게 만들어라"는 등의 반응이 뜨겁다. 일단 국민의 관심을 끄는데 성공한 셈이다. 

하지만 세부적으론 보완할 점이 많다. 우선, 경고그림은 답뱃갑 상단에 부착해야 한다. 하단에 넣으면 판매대에 가려져 구매 억제효과가 없을 것이라는 게 전문가 의견이다. 제도를 도입한 81개국 대부분은 상단에 넣었다. 담배 진열대도 눈에 띄는 곳에 놓는 게 바람직하다. 과도한 혐오감을 줄 수 있다는 지적도 있지만, 폐해를 알리자는 취지이니 주저할 이유가 없다. 답뱃갑 면적의 50% 이상으로 돼 있는 그림(문구 포함) 넓이도 확대하는 방안을 고려해야 한다. 캐나다는 75%, 호주는 최대 95%다. 최종 결정 때까지 더 다듬기 바란다. 



2016년 4 12일 (화요일)

Crisis for Korean seniors

Advanced nations create many opportunities and benefits for their citizens and for people of the world. Longer lifespans, new technologies, rising incomes, and advances in health and education, to name only a few. South Korea has entered the ranks of advanced nations in many respects, a miraculous story of development following the Korean War that continues to unfold. 

Nonetheless, advancement itself is no cure. It brings problems, or perhaps threats along with the opportunities. These might include social dislocation, over-urbanization, uneven development, inequality, and loss of community. No human construction can achieve perfection; at least that's an argument I want to make. 

One of the problems attending Korea's progress concerns the de-emphasis and neglect of mature citizens, seniors or the elderly. Korea's population of elders continues to grow, and that trend won't reverse itself anytime soon. In turn, we see a division of seniors by class. The lifestyles of the elderly with low socioeconomic status deserve attention, respect, and action. 

A recent CNN article cites the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stating that nearly fifty percent of Korea's elderly live in relative poverty (October 23, 2015). That's a shocking statistic. If roughly six and a half million Koreans are 65 or older, that means over three million seniors are poor. 

Korean culture places a great emphasis on respect for the elderly, but present-day life and work have many families leaving their parents and grandparents to fend for themselves. That may include their emotional lives too. A great many live incredibly alone. 

Korean life expectations have grown. The ranks of the elderly living alone have too. Social welfare, non-governmental, and policy led efforts to ameliorate their living conditions have lagged far behind the demand. State pensions instituted under the Park government are just a beginning, but not much of one. Are only a few hundred dollars a month the best one of the top 15 global economies can muster? Many seniors don't receive the pension at all. 

The people who deserve large parts of the credit for Korea's development in becoming a global powerhouse of technology, literacy, and economic strength are too often and too much forgotten and neglected. The aftermath of this is that many of the elderly turn frustration and sadness back on themselves. They commit suicide or live in depression. The rates for elders are just too high. What an enormous drag on the zenith of your great country and people! 

I also know that many Korean elders often continue their industrious and energetic lives through work, leisure, and volunteering for others. I'd like to suggest several ways to harness this latent and underutilized pool of wisdom and experience for the continued advance of Korean society. 

Korean developers and policymakers should act to encourage creating multigenerational living communities. In cities, suburban areas, and the countryside, experiment with creating new residential settings that bring together young families and unattached elders. Elders can serve as mentors, guides, tutors, and in many other ways. Children, teens and younger adults can show concern and care for seniors, checking in on them, performing odd jobs, providing meals (organizing provision) and spending time. This should frame a modern instance of Confucian morals. 

The government should stress the needs of Korean seniors and develop a full-scale array of services and support. Korean elders should be able to apply and work or volunteer in hospitals, religious settings, museums and other places that tap their knowledge and experience. All qualified seniors should receive training to serve as mentors and hosts for younger people and foreigners, for example. 

Universities need to speed up related programs of study. They should create engines for research and development of technologies, policies, and social support to make the conditions of Korean seniors better. Public and private partnerships should unfold with haste. A socially responsible company should honor the existence of Korean seniors where it counts: in their physical and emotional lives. 

Several most pleasant conversations with Koreans occurred when I met elders in public. On a subway, at a park or in a neighborhood, they have spoken to me and engaged me in small talk that showed great warmth, openness, and interest. The faces of men and women walking in Korea's cities and towns do not reveal the countless others left to grow old by themselves. Korea's people would only strengthen their society through intergenerational efforts. 

Bernard Rowan is associate provost for contract administration and professor of political science at Chicago State University, where he has served for 22 years. He is a past fellow of the Korea Foundation and former visiting professor at Hanyang University


Google's Clever Strategy in Planning Go Match

Google approached baduk or go champion Lee Se-dol late last year to play a match with prize money of US$1 million, but did not tell him who exactly his opponent would be. 

Google also rented the hotel venue through an event agency and did not mention the purpose.

Google's new motto is "Do the right thing," but the company does like to keep its business ventures under tight wraps. Secrecy was the hallmark of planning of the match with Google DeepMind's proto-artificial intelligence program AlphaGo as well.

Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis gave a lecture at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology advocating artificial intelligence, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin paid a surprise visit to Korea when Lee scored a win in the fourth match. But the aim was clearly to keep the element of surprise at every turn to maximize publicity.

Google's corporate value rose more than W58 trillion over the past week alone (US$1=W1,195). International media published thousands of articles on the historic match and photos of Google's logo decorated the front pages of newspapers around the world. 

Google has emerged as the No. 1 player in the artificial intelligence industry, beating rivals Apple and IBM. And industry watchers say it gained much more than appears on the surface. 

Google began to develop AlphaGo to bolster the ability of search engines to forecast the intentions of Internet users. When AlphaGo lost the fourth round of the best-of-five match, the company apparently welcomed the defeat, saying this would help fix the bugs in the program. Google's Internet search will probably evolve in unexpected ways. 

Looking back at the match, it appears that Lee was the one who jumped through all the hoops, while Google was laughing all the way to the bank. The Internet was filled with comments following the match that Lee merely netted W187 million but generated trillions of won worth of work for Google. Lee was perceived as something of a pawn in Google's attempt to test its artificial intelligence. 

But who can blame it? If Google had not chosen Lee, Koreans would not have become so mesmerized by artificial intelligence. And had it not been for the match, nobody would imagine such a nail-biting race between human and machine. The thing to worry about is the sweeping changes the technology could bring when it matures.

구글의 行馬

구글은 작년 12월 이세돌 9단에게 상대를 밝히지 않고 바둑 대국을 제안하며 100만달러의 상금을 걸었다. 이 9단은 비공개계약에 서명한 뒤에야 상대가 인공지능 알파고임을 통보받았고 대국에 응하기로 결정했다. 국내 변호사 몇몇은 그래서 이번 승부가 '불공정 계약'이었다고 말한다. 구글은 석 달 전 호텔을 예약하며 다른 사람 명의를 쓰고 행사 목적도 밝히지 않았다.

'옳은 일을 하자(Do the right thing)'는 게 구글 모회사 알파벳의 모토다. 하지만 정작 무슨 일을 왜 하는지는 철저히 비밀에 부치는 게 또 구글이다. 이번 대국에서도 구글은 알파고에 대해 사전 정보를 제공하지 않았다. 그러다 알파고가 대국에서 잇따라 승리한 뒤에야 딥마인드 CEO 데미스 허사비스가 트위터에 알파고가 대국 당시 계산했던 승률이나 초반에 실수했던 부분을 흘리며 호기심을 자극했다. 허사비스는 사람들 관심이 절정에 달했던 시점에 KAIST 공개 강연을 열어 대대적인 인공지능 선전장으로 삼았다. 이세돌이 4국에서 승리하자 구글 창업자 세르게이 브린이 깜짝 등장해 축하하는 일도 있었다. 정보를 틀어쥐고 국면마다 홍보 효과를 극대화한 행마(行馬)였다.

일주일 새 구글 회사 가치가 58조원 넘게 올랐다고 한다. 전 세계 언론들이 매일 수천 건씩 기사를 쏟아내고 구글 직원들 사진이 신문 1면을 점령했다. 구글은 IBM, 애플 같은 경쟁사를 제치고 인공지능 분야의 리더로 떠올랐다. IT업계에선 구글이 챙긴 실리가 드러난 것보다 훨씬 크다고 한다. 애초에 구글이 인공지능으로 바둑에 뛰어든 것은 자사의 인터넷 검색 기능을 소비자 의중을 수십 수 앞서 예측하는 형태로 개편하기 위해서였다고 한다. 4국에서 알파고가 패하자 구글이 "버그를 보완할 수 있게 됐다"며 반긴 것도 이런 이유다. 구글의 검색 서비스는 눈부시게 진화할 것이다.

이번 대국을 돌아보니 재주는 이세돌이 부리고 이득은 구글이 다 챙긴 것 같다. 인터넷에는 '구글이 얄밉다' '대국료 1억8700만원 받고 수십조원을 헌납했다'는 댓글이 쏟아졌다. 구글의 주도면밀한 인공지능 실험에 온 나라가 들러리 선 것 아니냐는 얘기도 나온다.

하지만 씁쓸해 할 일만은 아니다. 구글이 이세돌을 선택하지 않았다면 우리가 이렇게까지 인공지능에 관심을 보였을까. 곧 알파고가 보통 사람들에게도 '승부'를 걸어올 것이란 현실을 이렇게 실감 나게 깨닫기는 힘들었을 것이다. 닥쳐올 변화에 지금부터 준비를 서둘러야 훗날 이번 일을 "입에 쓴 보약이었다"고 말할 수 있을 것이다.