Stop the Madness

December 9th, 2014

“Stop the Madness,” written & narrated by So-Young Kang
Video produced by 7Media (Tokyo)
(from the December 2014 newsletter)

  • Who are we and what do we value?
  • What is our hope for the future?
  • Who do we want to become?

Are we asking these questions enough?

I believe that one of the biggest challenges we are facing globally is the loss of our identities.

Cityscape_TokyoRapid economic development globally has largely been fueled by the spread of capitalism and democracy. While these philosophies are ones I believe in, I also recognize that they have come with some unintended costs to society such as increase in self-centeredness, desire for immediate gratification, and excessive consumerism. A recent New York Times article also pointed out that “the real contradiction of capitalism is that it arouses enormous ambition, but it doesn’t help you define where you should focus it.”

Out of curiosity and fueled by my trip to Japan, I started to reflect on the potential longer-term societal impacts to rapid economic growth, especially as I recalled the original Asian economic tigers – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Now 20-30 years later, I find it curious that two of these countries have the highest suicide rates. This is also set in the context of no shortage of news of fraud, scandal, corruption, global economic crises, and the list goes on.

What’s happening?

gloomy_rainy_days Why are we surprised that people are driven by greed when we promote people to be self-seeking and self-serving? We encourage people to go after what they want…and often forget to mention how to get there.

Are we okay with the pursuit of individual happiness at the expense of shared humanity?

If not, what are we going to do about it as we encourage economic development? How can we get our identities back? How can we go from ‘human doing’ to a ‘human being’?

It’s time to start thinking. It’s time to start building channels to redirect the powerful force of consumerism to fuel life-giving, community-oriented economic growth.  We have the opportunity to redefine consumerism and how to grow rapidly.

steps_fallWhy does it have to mean thoughtless consumption and spending beyond our means? Can’t it mean a better livelihood where people take time to define their values and live more fulfilled lives?

It’s time to stop the madness.

  • Who are you and what do you value?
  • What is your hope for the future?
  • Who do you want to become?



  1. “South Korean Executive Imprisoned,” New York Times.
  2. “List of Countries by Suicide Rate,”
  3. “List of OECD countries by suicide rate,” Wikipedia.
  4. “An emerging middle class,” OECD Observer.

So-Young Shares Reflections from the Lee Kuan Yew Program

December 9th, 2014

Note: All views here are solely those of the author and do not represent views of any of the participants, faculty, speakers or sponsors. Any facts or information referred to here are from publicly available information.

By So-Young Kang

I recently had the privilege of attending a specially designed Young Global Leaders (YGL) program at the Lee Kuan Yew School focused on “Politics, Policy and Paradigms in Asia.” Thanks to the sponsorship of JTC, we were able to enjoy a full 2.5 days of rich discussions, candid and sometimes opposing views, and hear from Singapore’s Ministers, government leaders, business innovators and leading academics. I learned many things and wanted to just share a few of the key highlights as we touched on a variety of topics ranging from geopolitics to the shared economy to foresight planning in Singapore. To elaborate a bit more on my brief tweets…

photo 2

YGL members at JTC Singapore

1) Need to redefine “democracy” in global context before debating pros and cons.

It was clear from our discussions and debates that many of us had slightly different definitions of “democracy,” ranging from focus on human rights to freedom to elect officials, to freedom to move up social ladders. We are starting to see different models of “democracy” played out even in ASEAN where the countries have chosen not to get involved with the internal management of the respective countries when it relates to issues like human rights or how leaders get elected. It led me to ask more questions than provide answers such as: What are effective models of governance? How should we define them? How do they fit various economic, political and social contexts? Does one size fit all? Or does it depend on certain conditions or fundamental beliefs to work?

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YGL members with Minister Tan

2) Sharing economy is starting to redefine global trading norms and is here to stay

We had an interesting panel discussion with Uber, AirBnB, Communications Chairperson from Internet Society, and on some emerging trends with a growing shared economy of shared resources. In some ways, we are going back to a really old-school economy of bartering. We now have the technology to enable it on a larger scale. It raised many questions of entities. To what extent are you an entity to be taxed vs. an individual ‘sharing’ your goods with friends and neighbors? Should you be taxed for ‘sharing’ what belongs to you whether it’s a home or a car or breast milk? (Side note: One of the most interesting things I learned was on sharing of ‘Liquid Gold’ or breast milk. Yes, I was surprised too.)

3) Massive urbanization through migration to big cities can’t just be a given. Need rethink on how to manage economic growth.

According to Ambassador Chan’s presentation on the UN DESA (United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs) 2014, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from 54% mainly coming from Asia and Africa. This is going to cause significant pressure on cities to be able to cope with not only physical, but social, emotional and cultural challenges ranging from congestion to crime, to depression, etc. How can we start to rethink urban planning to redistribute population and resources?  We had some great discussions with JTC as the group ideated on potential ways to anticipate future trends of designing more liveable, eco-friendly communities into future commercial development investments.

As you can tell from my brief jots, I left the program with more questions than I started – a sign of a great program that challenged me to think, rethink, listen and learn.

photo 1 copy


Special thank you to JTC, WEF, and Lee Kuan Yew School for providing such a wonderful learning experience for the Young Global Leaders.



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