After less than a week in Korea, I have made two conclusions. First, Ghana could become a Korea very easily. Second, the pettiness and mediocrity of our politics guarantee that we are not about to become Korea anytime soon.
To a very large extent, South Korea reminds me of Ghana; an old woman sleeping in her kiosk selling cigarettes, PK and water. Next to that store is a man who specialises in mending shoes. Then a woman is selling fried eggs, bread and tea. Chop-bars are all over the place. The back alleys would pass for Adabraka - they lead to a mechanic's store, someone's house, more food being sold, etc. But that is where the similarities end.
Juxtaposed with this traditional society is a very modern functioning state. Public 'transportation, in the form of buses, subways, and taxis are first class. You never have to wait for more than 5 minutes to catch a bus. The subway system is probably the best organised one I have seen and taxis are incredibly cheap.
Crossing the streets, you notice what makes South Korea what it has become and Ghana to trail what it could have been discipline! No hooting, there is order on 'the streets, pedestrians have their turn and the drivers too. There is an absence of Benzs, BMWs, and Hummers on the roads but you see the Hyundais, Daewoos and Kias.
You can walk the streets of South Korea 24-hours without any fear of armed robbers or any robbers. This is how Ghana used to be in the days that we used to discohop from Piccolo Mondo through Mikes before heading to Dan's Paradise. But Ghana has now become something else, and every citizen has a 25% chance of being attacked by armed robbers on any given night.
There are English and Math teachers on 3 dedicated TV channels teaching English and Math 24-hours a day. Our radio and TV stations are dedicated to political noisemakers.
They have self-esteem; we lack it
They love Ghana chocolate for the stores are full of it. They leave that for us to make. They make cars and electronics. I saw on TV that Hyundai beat Toyota in the JD power ratings. We are busy showing off our latest Benz and BMWs.
You can see the effort to plant trees, ;protect the environment (air is clean), and preserve the culture. Seoul has 11 million people, but apparently they have some town planners. Accra has over 3 million and is a case study of how not to build a city. They have built strong roads and tarred the back alleys. Our roads remain works in progress and our back alleys a source of dirt, fouling the air, our nostrils, and our bodies.
South Korea is an economic giant that has maintained its traditional values. Ghana is an economic dwarf that has shed its traditional values.
What would legislators in the 2 countries do if they had US$ 10m that could be used on cars? The South Korean legislators would invest it in Public Transport and ours would invest in private vehicles for themselves and their families. The South Korean legislators have no difficulty using public transport and an investment in public transport as a way of satisfying their utility. Public transport is below the dignity of the Ghanaian politician. It is Ok for them to ride in their vehicles while the rest of the population watch and admire their fancy cars from afar.
The diet in South Korea is full of vegetables. I had a US$6 meal that had 12 servings of different vegetables, including soup made of seaweed. In Ghana we love carbohydrates and "enam ampesie". As a result, I have not seen anyone fatter than me since I came here. It makes them look younger, cuts down on health care costs, and improves mortality rates. We look older, have escalating health care costs for our politicians (who go overseas for treatment while the rest of us die from simple diarrhoea), and have frightening mortality rates.
Politics in South Korea is about solving national problems. It is about solving the personal problem's of politicians in Ghana.
Ghana can easily become Korea if we put our minds to it, plan, and shed the indiscipline. Ghana will never become South Korea because our politics is too petty and insular, and we are an undisciplined society.