[FOUNTAIN]Sunsets and Magnolias

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[FOUNTAIN]Sunsets and Magnolias

He turned 81 this year, and is the first naturalized Korean. He has lived in Korea for 56 years.

Born in Pennsylvania in the United States, his American name is Carl Miller, but he is known in Korea as Min Pyong-gal. He has spent his entire time here nurturing his Chollipo Arboretum in South Chungcheong province, where 7,000 varieties of flowers bloom. The JoongAng Ilbo English Edition featured Mr. Min and his arboretum in its J-Style section on May 4, 2001.

His body is showing signs of deadly illness these days. The skin on four of his ten fingertips is fissured, so he wears brown bands around them to keep them from the cold. The back of his hands look like the shell of a turtle, chapped and wrinkled. He has lost sensation in the soles of his feet, and he says he once stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake while driving. These are symptoms that have emerged in the 10 months since he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which has progressed to a life-threatening stage.

But despite his ailment, he still wears a smile on his face. He has endured anti-cancer therapy which has wracked his body, yet he works regularly at Good Morning Securities as a consultant. He visits a hospital once or twice a week, but refuses to check himself in for an extended stay. What gives him such strength to bear his hardships and be "a persevering Korean?"

"When I was diagnosed with lung cancer early this year, I was very sad. I knew that I could not live long. But I am very happy now because I have my trees, the love of my life, beside me," Mr. Min said.

Daily, he demonstrates his commitment to work on his arboretum as long as he can. Even when one brings up subjects like the sad things of life to him, his face is calm. "The sad thing about having cancer is that I cannot eat kimchi," Mr. Min said. "Kimchi now makes my stomach ache."

People who know him call him an unusual man. Mr. Min said he feels indescribable happiness when "sunset spreads over a mountain ridge," when he hears "whispers of leaves swung by the wind," and "magnolias of several hundred varieties feasting on their own beauty." He said he maintains his peace of mind by listening to Buddhist music and the sounds of a wooden gong.

But his religious beliefs seem to stem from his love of nature. He is the developer of a major arboretum where he planted our future, and now prepares for his death with dignity and calm. I pray that he is given more time so he can grow more trees.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Choi Chul-joo

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