[FOUNTAIN]Setting Suns and Graceful Exits

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[FOUNTAIN]Setting Suns and Graceful Exits

The great English poet, John Milton, author of "Paradise Lost," said the disease to which all old men succumb is avarice. There is no aphorism that warns more clearly of an old man's greed. When obstinacy replaces wisdom and senility replaces brightness, greed grows. Growing older does not necessarily indicate accumulating wisdom.

Buddhism teaches that with age, avarice and stubbornness should be cast aside. The Buddhist scriptures say that age is measured not by white hair but by wisdom. If the light of wisdom disappears and only ugly greed is left, life passes uselessly.

Let's consider this old man. He turned 75 years old this year. He is honorary chairman of the United Liberal Democrats. He has twice been prime minister and has served under a succession of presidents - thus his tag, "Forever the No. 2 man." His name is Kim Jong-pil.

"I'd like to bathe the whole western sky in a red light, when I set," he recently said.

"I don't want to remain a half-burnt piece of wood," he has also said. "I will burn out completely, leaving only ash." Evidently, he wants to go out with a bang.

This speech set the rumors flying. He is no longer the "king maker" - nurturer of presidents - but harbors "great ambitions" of his own, despite his years. Some have applauded this perceived aim for the "throne" and have offered their support. It is said he merely smiled at this. Observers said his look was that of Wang Kon, surrounded by officials soliciting him to accede to the throne.

"We cannot say a man is young just because he is physically young and cannot say a man is not young just because he has advanced in many years. A real young man is one who finds with wisdom what he should do and do his best to achieve it," said the old man. It is a wise remark. It is utterly right. Then, let's consider what the old man should do. According to a public poll by the daily paper Munhwa Ilbo, only 1.9 percent of Koreans want to set him on the throne. Even in Chungchong province, the province of his home town, only 3.9 percent want it.

In this situation, it is more likely that a camel will pass through the eye of a needle before Mr. Kim wins the presidential throne. It is clear what the old man should do: admit that his time has passed, withdraw silently and concentrate on his golf.

Another man, who was but a baby when the old man first appeared in the public eye, sporting sunglasses and a pistol, has now become a middle-aged man in his 40s. The old man could not have smiled if he had considered the feelings of those like this middle-aged man who are sick of his "great ambitions." Perhaps a "half-burnt piece of wood" would be more beautiful.

by Bae Myung-bok

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