Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Precptions on Laws and Rules

In the comments on my observations about the subway fare system I got an interesting response:

But your mother raised you better than that, didn't she? Cheating an honor system is pretty low, don't you think?

This got me thinking, "How many office supplies the commenter has pilfered from his previous work places?" That said, I do not mean to engage in a "holier than thou" type dialogue from this post. My point in the jibe is a pre-emptive strike to show Americans are just a susceptible to such abuses.

However considering much of what is seen by me in Korea, I must wonder, "How do Koreans perceive rules and laws?" Case in point, at the few traffic stops I have seen in Korea drivers erupt into a tirade against the police officer. This rarely happens in the US, for a variety of reasons (ironic considering the US fine is much more than the Korean one). Another example is the way that not only both parties but also even the courts consider contracts flimsy pieces of protection.

In the United States we justify our action either by example "everyone else does it", or cling to the idea that such things are a "victimless crime". To be fair the first justification usually is a matter of scale (to take my earlier jibe, stealing a pen from the office is one thing, stealing a computer is another). However we are rarely taught either is the way to live by our parents (ideally).

Which gets me to my main question "How are Korean children raised?" Are they raised ideally, as back home, and fall off the wagon in the face of bad examples? Are they taught that only some of the rules are applicable at some times? Are they taught that if the benefit you receive is greater than the possible penalty, its OK to violate the rules? Are they taught that becasue Korea is homogenous, if enough people break the law its OK for everyone to do it?

I know I am thin ice with some here (especially considering my established cynicism>, but can anybody answer me?


To be fair, I should bring up my background. If I had to simplify my upbringing on this issue, I would consider my many conversations with my father. He was a lawyer, and passed on many points of rules and law. His one of his incidental overriding message was "If you can legally justify your actions, you may do so".

This is an interesting philosophy, with many interesting consequences. I cannot find this to be a defense for the subway tickets. One can financially justify it, but not legally. There could be many legal arguments for office supplies, such as non-wage benefits, or the need to work at home. Regardless, you can clearly see that there is a difference between "legal" and "moral".

Above though, I am not asking about upbringing in regard to morals, but laws. Accordingly I am not calling into question a Koreans morality.


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