Professor Steven Capener (Dept. of Korean Studies), who teaches courses related to Korean literature and culture, has expressed his concerns about what he views as a lack of appropriate development of the ego in university students. He feels that his 16-year sojourn in Korea and his research about Korean culture have given him insight into Korean students' way of viewing themselves.Based on his experience Professor Capener presented his "Empty Vessel" theory.
Professor Capener says, "My theory is that Koreans lack a sense of self due to Korea's homogenized society. People try to follow the norm and fear to be different. Therefore, their minds (which are compared to a vessel) are not filled with their own ego but a mass ego. Koreans temporarily fill their empty vessel with the society's emotional issue of the moment."
Professor Capener believes that the national scholastic aptitude test for college entrance is one of the social cultures that causes loss of opportunities for Korean students to discover themselves and search for happiness. According to him, ego is what balances the "id" and the super ego. The id is the source of “instinctual impulses," the super ego is an “overly controlling drive" toward perfection. Because of the social environment, all students tend to have only one goal, to get into the university. Since this is not nurturing of self, ego does not develop and has a hard time balancing the id and the super ego when students are thrusted into the university environment.?any Ewha students have a hard time adjusting to university life where no one is telling them what to do. Therefore, many people feel lost and either withdraw or act inappropriately on emotional impulses.
"I feel sad for students who haven't found their ego yet, and who do not even try to find their ego. I think developing your ego increases your level of contentment with life and yourself. I think many Koreans feel resentment toward their life and dislike themselves since they haven't fully developed their ego yet," said Professor Capener. Therefore, he says to students, "People who developed their ego don't depend on other people for happiness. They depend on themselves. Therefore, they can be alone and not be lonely. Practice being alone and fill up that time with your imagination. You will see what you have not yet experienced."