What We Hope for from N.Korea's 20-Something Leader

  • By Kang In-sun from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

    January 04, 2012 13:36

    Kang In-sun

    Twenty-somethings are all over the news. North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un (born in 1984 or thereabouts), succeeded his father in his late 20s, and North Korea's state media cited nuclear weapons as his father Kim Jong-il's greatest legacy. The Washington Post said that makes Jong-un be the world's youngest leader to possess nuclear weapons. An American cannot even run for president until the age of 35.

    Here in South Korea, the youngest member of an emergency committee at the Grand National Party aimed at reinvigorating the ruling party is 27 years old. He is Lee Jun-seok (b. 1985), the head of a venture company. A GNP lawmaker's aide who was accused of launching a cyber attack on the National Election Commission's server was also 27. Jayson Blair, the former New York Times reporter who was fired years ago for plagiarism and fabrication, damaging the newspaper's credibility, was 27 at the time, and the U.S. daily promptly hired a new editor of its culture and leisure pages seeking to revamp its image who was in his late 20s. Until then, the position had been filled by veteran reporters in their 50s.

    In their late 20s, people are now thought to be capable of innovation and of formidable achievements in their field. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is 28, and his website now boasts 800 million users. Facebook has already created three billionaires. The deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was 27 when he grabbed power through a coup and ruled his country for 42 years.

    Twenty-somethings were also among those who led the democracy protests in the Middle East and the Occupy Wall Street movement seeking a more equitable distribution of wealth. Most people in their late 20s today live in fear due to the uncertainties in the job market following the global economic slump.

    Experts see the late 20s as an age when a person's mental capacity has yet to mature fully. U.S. neuroscientist Sam Wang said a person's brain is still developing in their 20s and that Kim Jong-un will not be the same person in five to 10 years. One U.S. developmental psychologist says young leaders are especially likely to succeed in the IT industry. Information and communication, sports, music and mathematics mostly are mostly based on instinct or "pure" information that does not require multi-layered interpretation, allowing young people to thrive without great experience. But experts say it is unwise to have a 27-year-old leading a business or a government. The ability to understand the complexities of the world takes time and years of experience to acquire. Young entrepreneurs of IT companies often sell their businesses after taking them to new heights, apparently because they encounter such obstacles.

    But 20-somethings still have a lot going for them. Pearl S. Buck, author of "The Good Earth," wrote it is not easy to be prudent when you are young, because you still have a lot to learn. But she added that often young people rashly take on what appears to be impossible tasks and sometimes achieve them. This is what we hope for from the 20-somethings who make headlines today. But if they cannot create new things by taking on bold challenges, perhaps it would be better to have people in their 50s and 60s filling those positions. For Kim Jong-un, the boldest challenge to take on would be carrying out the reforms his father was unable to accomplish.

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