The following is an abridged expert from the address given to Ambassador for Peace on August, 11, 2012 in Seoul, Korea.
The 2012 Olympics have recently come to a close. There, the Korean people showed their true character to the world. Although this is a nation of less than 50 million, it ranked fifth among all the gold medalist nations in the world—surpassing nations that have populations twice or even three times the size of this Korean republic.
So it’s not only the industry, such as Samsung and Hyundai that carry the Korean brand to the international community. It is not only the culture, the K-pop culture that is influencing many young people not only in Asia but also in the West. It is the Korean character that was exhibited at the highest level of athletic endeavor. This is where the spirit of the Korean people showed itself to the international community. It was really poignant.
- The gold medalist in wrestling, whose one eye was swelled shut during his trials to win the Olympics games, upon winning that medal said, “If you work hard, Haneul (heaven) will know. I worked hard and I think Haneul recognized my efforts.”
- The Korean gymnast who was willing to put his neck out on the line with the possibility of total, utter failure, who developed a new move that surprised all the nations of the world. Korea, up until that time, never won a medal in gymnastics. Yet, there was a young Korean, once again, who was willing to challenge and strive for excellence and received the gold medal.
- It was a Korean soccer team,who never won a medal, who had the audacity to dream, to strive, to achieve, to compete, on an international scale, without any leg-ups, that won a bronze medal, defying all expectations. They did something that most considered impossible. It was an exhibition of Korean character.
The burden that a Korean athlete representing this nation carries is a heavy one. Yet, this is a time in which they can be proud as a nation and proud in their character that has been exhibited to the world.
And what is that character?
- It is a character of exceptionalism. Look at the number of gold medals that this small nation achieved, it is a character of exceptionalism. That means wanting to defy all the odds to accomplish something great, something remarkable, something that other people might think – other nations might think – is impossible, unachievable. It is married to their capacity to dream very big dreams.
- It is a nation of dreams. The Korean people have the audacity to dream the greatest dreams, and eventually, through their tenacity, through their dedication and devotion, they eventually bring that dream to its realization.