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2017-11-06 17:25
By Lee Sun-ho



“Que Sera, Sera,” is a Spanish expression that means “what will be, will be.” Koreans who have lived through the late 1950s and early 1960s after the ceasefire of the Korean War and who were eagerly trying to learn English and Western culture as collegians can easily remember hearing a popular song of this title blaring out of the U.S. Eighth Army compound in the country.

Released in 1956, the popular “Que Sera, Sera” was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It was introduced in the Alfred Hitchcock film, “The Man Who Knew too Much,” and was popularized worldwide by singer and actress Doris Day.

From March 17 to May 13 in 2007, a Korean romance drama with the same title aired on weekends at 11:40 hours for 60 minutes on MBC-TV, starring Eric Mun (who played Kang Tae-joo), Jung Yoo-mi (who played Han Eun-soo), Lee Kyu-han (who played Shin Joon-hyuk) and Yoon Ji-hye (who played Cha Hye-lin). The drama is a passionate, violent and twisted story of emotional abuse and is based on the notion that love is a zero-sum game.

The Spanish expression is something we say when we are stuck in a hopelessly unchangeable situation that we have come to accept or even embrace. The song, as indicated by its lyric “the future is not ours to see,” is similar to the American phrase, “it is what it is,” as well as to the Korean Buddhist term, “all is vanity,”. The phrase is used to explain the uncertainty of the future of one’s life. Similarly, the Korean saying, “70-percent luck and 30-percent talent for success in life” denotes the necessity of constantly doing one’s best based on the inevitable environmental variables coming along.

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman, the world’s most influential living psychologist, who shared the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Vernon L. Smith, wrote, “If people are failing, they look inept. If people are succeeding, they look strong, good and competent.”

It is a wonderful thing to be always optimistic. Being so keeps us healthy and resilient. Optimistic people got to where they are by gladly seeking challenges and taking risks. The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained. Tomorrow is a new day that we cannot predict, as “the future is not ours to see.” Today, adrenalin is our drug of choice to “carp diem,” as a good present for ourselves. There is no need to overthink the bygone good old days, but we need to think about consequences. By gathering and sharing, we can turn our fears into opportunities. Let the days come and go.

“Que sera, sera” needs to be reinterpreted in the Korean context from an expression that refers to a pay-as-you-go attitude to one that refers to optimistic proactive outlook. We are here on this earth to learn how to live with our problems.

Life is not about how far we can go, how high we can jump, or how much weight we can carry. It is about experiences, friendships, family and reasonable adjustments. Be prepared for change, and do not be afraid! Without change, there is neither growth nor hope. Self-confidence with courage can get us far in the world. We are all here, because we are not all there.

“Que sera, sera.” What will be, will be.


The writer is an ombudsman columnist for The Korea Times in Seoul. Contact him at kexim2@unitel.co.kr.


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