[FOUNTAIN]Looking Forward, Not Back

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[FOUNTAIN]Looking Forward, Not Back

In Korea, the family name Lee is the second most common, after Kim, and has 237 places of origin. One of the Lee clans, the "Hwasan Lee," originated with a royal family in Vietnam. In 1226, the second son of the last king of Vietnam's Lee Dynasty fled his country to avoid a civil war. He eventually arrived in Hwasan, Hwanghae province. King Kojong of Koryo conferred a peerage on him, called him Hwasangun and gave him an estate. That man, also known as Lee Yong-sang, was the first of the Hwasan Lees.

The Vietnamese government invites some members of the Hwasan Lee family from Korea every year to celebrate the anniversary of the launch of the Korean clan on March 15 of the lunar calendar. When the Lees visited Vietnam for the first time in 1995, prominent Vietnamese officials such as Do Muoi, the general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist party, welcomed them. The Vietnamese showered their long-lost relatives with affection.

Koreans and Vietnamese share some common traits. Most Vietnamese are descendants of the Mongols, and resemble Koreans in appearance. The Korean and Vietnamese languages have a different word order but have many similar words. In Vietnam, restrooms have signs reading "nam" and "nho," meaning man and woman, similar to the Korean words "nam" and "yeo."

Customs and people's ways of thinking in the two countries are also similar. Both the Korean and the Vietnamese worship ancestors and held ceremonies for the repose of ancestors' souls. They hold grand ceremonies for weddings and funerals. Both like white clothes, singing and dancing. Koreans and Vietnamese also are quick to bare their souls to others. Both have a strong interest in education. It is natural that a fever for things Korean is spreading among Vietnamese youngsters.

Vietnam's President Tran Duc Luong visited Korea last week for the first time since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. At the summit, Korean President Kim Dae-jung said Korea regrets having participated in the Vietnam War and causing unintentional pain to the Vietnamese. But the Vietnamese government, instead of digging up the past, dwells more on the future and more on actual benefits than on justifications. Maybe such a philosophy has its basis in its pride of being the only Asian country that fought against and defeated the United States.

Koreans have persisted in demanding apologies and compensations for the Ukishima Maru incident and the massacre of innocent Koreans at Nogeunri. What would the Vietnamese think?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myong-bok

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