A little more than a week ago, the former President of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide. Recently, allegations had been made about his involvement with illegal pay-offs during his 5 year presidency (2003-2008).
You can read an article surrounding this story here.
As a westerner, I assume a suicide is to strictly to avoid the inevitable legal ramifications. However, talking with a few Korean friends, I am finding that the sense of shame surrounding Roh Moo-hyun for even being investigated was enough for him to take his own life. The negative light he brought to his time in political office as president, his family, his supporters, and his country (regardless of guilt) would have been catastrophic.
There is a responsibility in this country to never bring shame on your family (past generations, present, and future generations). For all Koreans, the pressure is immense to keep your family’s name, social standing, wealth, and legacy, not only intact, but ever increasing.
The avoidance of shame is the motivator for so much in this country. It, sadly, reminds me of something my brother Ben once said about Valentines Day: “Its a set-up. You can only break even. Even if you do buy her flowers and take her out to dinner … you can’t actually get ahead.”