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Of Philosophies and ‘Hongik Ingan’


By Pooja Marwah

For all those who consume content via OTT, Korean Drama tops the international lists for one reason specifically. They know how to tell a good story. And they believe in the philosophy of Hongik Ingan.

I am often left wondering about our quest to find aliens in other planets or solar systems. Sure, it is rather interesting and intriguing. Imagine having another species? Will they look like us? What features would define them? Would we know their language? Will they be friendly?

But amidst all these pondering questions, when I look around, I do find another species! Right here on Planet Earth. A generation that is attached to a screen. It is almost like an extension of their natural bodies. Nothing moves without a beep or an alarm from the screen. Their lives are attuned to it. And it knows exactly what they want and when. It almost feels like everyone walks in their own bubble. But often forget that bubbles burst sooner than later!

In a world increasingly dominated by technological advancements, the ancient wisdom of Korean philosophy offers a refreshing perspective on life and our place in the world. One such profound philosophy is Hongik Ingan, which translates to “broadly benefiting all humanity”.

At its core, Hongik Ingan emphasises the importance of living a life that contributes to the greater good of humanity. It encourages us to cultivate a sense of harmony with others and the world around, promoting peace, empathy, and compassion. In today’s fast-paced and often disconnected world, this philosophy serves as a poignant reminder of the value of human connection and community. We don’t have to be two distinct species in our own planet, do we?

The concept of Hongik Ingan is deeply rooted in the traditional Korean belief in the interconnectedness of all living beings. It teaches us to view ourselves not as isolated individuals, but as integral parts of a larger whole. This interconnectedness extends beyond human relationships to encompass our relationship with nature and the environment.

One of the key aspects of Hongik Ingan is the concept of “Jung”, which refers to a deep sense of empathy and compassion towards others. This concept is beautifully illustrated in the Korean tradition of “Jeong”, which describes a deep emotional bond between people that transcends time and distance.

In the context of our digital age, where social media interactions often substitute for genuine human connection, the philosophy of Hongik Ingan challenges us to cultivate meaningful relationships based on understanding. It reminds us that true connection comes from being present with others, rather than merely being connected online.

Another aspect I find interesting is the notion of “Gonggam”, which emphasises the importance of harmony and balance in all aspects of life. This concept encourages us to strive for balance in our relationships, work, and personal pursuits, recognising that imbalance leads to disharmony and discontent.

The pursuit of success and achievement often leads to stress and burnout, and this is when the philosophy of Hongik Ingan reminds us of the importance of balance. Yes, the world is increasingly online, but the truth is that our lives are actually offline! Everything else is just a story we tell ourselves.

(Pooja Poddar Marwah is an award winning author and Blogger. She writes an contemporary living and offers incisive reflections on the world around us. Her blog, Random Conversations is a go to guide to deal with the myraid stuggles we face each day.)