A Heart-Warming Reunion Between One Teacher and his Old StudentsNamsan was full of joy, tears, and laughter on the afternoon of August 15. There was an old man overwhelemed with joy and 50 people surrounded him at the Palgakjung Pavilion at the summit of Mt. Namsan in downtown Seoul. At the center of the meeting was Kim Il-soo (54), the deputy principal of Joonang Elementary School in Euijungbu, Kyonggi Province, and surrounding him were his old students.
"Oh, Mr. Kim! You look just the same as before! It's been more than 30 years! How have you been?" a former student asked Mr. Kim.
"Oh, you folks kept our 'Palgakjung promise!' So, How are you? Are you guys married now? You have kids, too?" Mr. Lee responded.
The story of the 'Palgakjung promise' starts 31 years ago when Mr. Kim was a fresh, new second grade teacher at Sangyeon Elementary School in Kyonggi Province where Mr. Kim got his first teaching job after graduating from Inchon Teacher's College in 1969. One day, when he was teaching about 'sincerity and honesty,' he came up with an idea. He told his little second graders, "You guys should grow up to become sincere and honest human beings. I have a great idea! Why don't we promise to meet in front of the Palkakjung Pavilion on the top of Mt. Namsan on August 15, Liberation Day, of the year 2000? On that day, we can see whether or not we really became respectable adults."
Since then, Kim has taught at 10 different schools before finally settling down five years ago at Seo Elementary School in Euijungbu City as a deputy-principal. During this time, he continued to make his 'Palgakjung promise' every year with his new students.
Among the 1,500 students he taught in the past, 50 students showed up on this day, remembering the promise as long as 31 years for some people and as short as 5 years for others.
"I have been waiting for this day for so long. This promise was so clear in my mind somehow." Kim Mi-sook (43. housewife), who was Kim's sixth grade student back in 1970, remembered with tears.
Kim is about to be promoted this coming September to principal. He smiled and said, "I'm unbelievably happy to see my old students again. Seeing my students remembering the promise we made more than 30 years ago, I feel like I am being rewarded for my teaching career."
by Chun Ik-jin