A monk searches for his father’s legacy

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A monk searches for his father’s legacy

Won Kyeong, 62, the head priest of an ancient Buddhist temple in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi province, once had the name Park Byeong-sam. He is the son of Park Heon-yeong, an eminent historical figure in shaping the Communist party in Korea.
Won Kyeong’s father, who lived from 1900 to 1956, was accused in South Korea of being a communist and in North Korea of being a reactionary.
Won Kyeong is currently trying to recollect memories of his father and is in search of the path his father took, which he knows little about.
He is nearing the final stage of publishing a series of nine books on Park Heon-yeong, a project that began in 1992,
Mr. Park, who also participated in the independence movement on March 1, 1919, later took refuge in Shanghai and joined a socialist group there. After Korea gained independence in 1945 Mr. Park returned and became the head of the Communist party in South Korea. He moved to North Korea in 1946 and became a political rival to Kim Il-sung. In 1956, Mr. Park was executed by his fellow North Koreans for treason, amid accusations of being an American spy.
In the collection is a recording of Mr. Park’s book, “The World and Joseon,” as well as interviews, trial records and information from Russia and North Korea, Won Kyeong said.
There also are notes on Marxist philosophy that Mr. Park took while attending a school in the Soviet Union during his exile there between 1928 and 1932.
The notes, which are in English, were donated by Mr. Park’s daughter, Vivianna Park, 75.
Collecting and organizing the information about Mr. Park took 120 experts in modern history. Won Kyeong said he paid for all the expenses.
Won Kyeong, the son of Mr. Park and his second wife, was born in 1941. He became an orphan not long afterward, and lived on the streets.
Won Kyeong shaved his head and became a monk in 1950 only after traveling with his father’s friend, a Buddhist monk named Han San.
Han San graduated from a university in Tokyo, Japan and later became a devoted socialist before retiring to the world of Buddhism.
Han San, while taking care of Won Kyeong, used to tell the little boy stories about his father. Han San, however, has not been heard from since 1968, Won Kyeong said.
He said it was an overwhelming experience when, in 1991, he met his older sister, Ms. Park, who was the child of Mr. Park and his first wife, Joo Se-jook.
But Ms. Park, who spent her life in Russia as a ballerina, barely spoke a word of Korean. Although it was impossible for them to understand each other verbally, they hugged throughout the night they reunited, Won Kyeong said.
Won Kyeong, who had received photographs and related information about his father from his sister, included all that material in the collection.

by Bae Young-dae
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