[FOUNTAIN]Filial piety and the law

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[FOUNTAIN]Filial piety and the law

"Why are men of virtue reluctant to teach their own sons?" a student asked Mencius (372-289 B.C.), a Chinese philosopher.

Mencius replied, "A man will get angry and will scold his son if his son fails to follow his teachings. And, the son will also defy his father, saying, 'You are telling me to keep to the right path, but why don't you do so?' If a father breaks with his son, there will be nothing good. Accordingly, wise men teach each other's sons."

There are many tensions between father and son and always have been. Fathers always pin their hopes on their flesh and blood and get especially angry if their sons fall short of their expectations. Sons are also often dissatisfied with their fathers. Strangely enough, there are no such tensions between grandfather and grandson.

In the past in Korea, a father and a son did not eat at the same table. If a father and a son shared a table, the father tended to seize the moment to point out the shortcomings of his son and admonish him; the son would get angry at being scolded while he was eating. When King Jungjong (1488-1544) reigned in the Joseon dynasty, a man named Lee Dong, who lived in Hwanghae province, was arrested for striking his father with a rice bowl while quarrelling with him at the dining table. Lee Dong was nearly put to death, but in the end his sentence was commuted to a lighter punishment on the reasoning that he was only an ignorant man who had not fully learned moral principles.

Following the teachings of Mencius, most of our ancestors did not directly teach their sons in order to avoid becoming emotional during teaching. Grandfathers, uncles or the friends of the fathers generally taught children. Lee San-hae, who served as the prime minister of King Seonjo (1552-1608), also learned not from his father, Lee Ji-beon, but from his uncle, Lee Ji -ham, who is famous for his book, "Tojeongbigyeol," divinations based on one's horoscope.

President Kim Dae-jung's sons are currently suspected of being involved in political scandals. Presisent Kim's regrets and pity for his sons that were expressed in letters to them while he was imprisoned have become a topic of conversation. Mr. Kim said in one letter that he felt bitter about the hardships he had given his sons. Still, presidential aides should tell the president to dispose of the problems according to the law. The sons of the president cannot be exceptions to the law; sons and daughters are precious to the laborer as well as to the president.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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