중앙데일리

One man’s quest to clean up Korea

Jan 02,2008
Tim Birdsong
Tim Birdsong is easy to interview; one little question and he’s off. He’s been getting good at it, as he’s been the focus of a flurry of media attention for his mission to clean up Korea and bring peace to the world.
It all started when he was at the front gate of Hanyang University, where he teaches English. “It was a nice evening in July,” he said. “I was looking up at the sculptured Korean pine trees. Then I looked down at my feet, and there were cigarette butts everywhere, and I almost cried.” He began picking up garbage around the Cheonggye Stream and preaching his message to people, even though he doesn’t speak Korean.
He arrived here just before the World Cup. “The World Cup was a turning point, because I witnessed the unifying power of a nation ... If peacemakers and world leaders had taken control of it, then this energy would have transformed the world,” he said.
“The unity that they created could have been sustained, but instead it just died,” he said. “For the 2006 World Cup, they dressed up like devils. That was the silliest, dumbest thing they could have done, with the North viewed as an evil empire.”
So, he took an old Korean saying, hongik ingan, and made it the foundation of his one-man movement.
“I’m defining hongik ingan as devotion to the welfare of humankind,” he said. “I’m asking the Koreans to go out and be an original Korean. The type of Korean who throws garbage on the ground and is corrupt is not the original Korean. Hongik ingan is what it means to be a real Korean. And it’s the same as being a real American or a real anything.” Learn more about Birdsong’s quest at www.hiig.ws.
By Richard Scott-Ashe


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