[FOUNTAIN]Politicians and promisesThere is a story passed down from old times about someone who believed in a promise - too completely and stupidly. During the “Spring and Autumn” period of ancient China, a young man from the state of Lu promised his lover to meet her under a bridge. While he was standing under the bridge waiting for his lover to come, it began to rain heavily. The stream rose fast, but he did not move. He finally died there, holding onto a pier of the bridge.
A collection of short stories complied by Fu Bou Ryou from the Ming Dynasty of China includes a even more provocative story about keeping a promise. Fan Ju Jing was a young man who left his hometown to take the government examination to become a public servant. On his way to the test, he became frostbitten, almost dying on the road. Jiang Li, another young gentleman also on his way to take the test, discovered him and took care of him for days. The two men both missed the test, but swore to be brothers to each other. They promised that they would meet again at Mr. Jiang's place on Sept. 9 of the lunar calendar a year later.
Time passed by and the day of promise came. Mr. Jiang prepared food and waited for Mr. Fan, but no visitor came until night fell. Late at night, Mr. Fan silently stepped into the room with sorrow on his gloomy face. He was no longer a living person; he was a ghost.
Mr. Fan lived in poverty and ended up remembering the promise belatedly, only on the appointed day. Realizing that it was already too late to visit Mr. Jiang by traveling a long distance, he remembered a folk tale that ghosts could travel thousands of miles with one step. To keep his promise, Mr. Fan killed himself.
The people in the stories could be called fanatics. Still, the stories about valuing promises more than one’s life still teach us a lesson that the real world cannot.
More than a year is left before the presidential election, but many politicians have already thrown their hats in the ring. As of now, there are already eight presidential candidates in the Millennium Democratic Party alone. The United Liberal Democrats and the Grand National Party have candidates. Although colorful promises have been made, the people have been deceived many times. Charles De Gaulle once said politicians are surprised to see someone who believes in his words because they do not believe in theirs. Nikita Khrushchev said there is no difference between politicians because they all promise to build a bridge where there is no river.
The writer is political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun