[FOUNTAIN]Life after death?The late Chung Ju-yung, the founder of the Hyundai Group, responded “Confucianism” when asked about his religion during his campaign for president in1992. During the campaign, he held tours of his farm on reclaimed land in Seosan. At one end of the expanse stood a statue of his father, who Mr. Chung said was the person he admired the most. Mr. Chung hoped his father, who died a poor farmer, would be happy to look out over the vast collection of rice paddies.
The reason he delivered a herd of cattle to North Korea six years after the campaign also was tied to his father. Mr. Chung was repaying the money he stole, when he was a teenager, from his father, who made the money by selling a cow. He used the money to run away from home.
Mr. Chung emphasized hyo, obedience to parents. He never doubted that this fundamental value of Confucianism would bring peace to the home. He dealt with his sons and daughters strictly. He never spared the rod. During the campaign he gathered his sons and daughters-in-law and made them stand in a line when he left home for the office. Confucian thought accounted for his peculiar affection for his hometown in North Korea.
In 1998, Mr. Chung simply answered “I’m glad to go to my hometown” when asked about his feeling about a visit to North Korea. His hometown is Tongcheon, near Mount Geumgang, the site of a tourism project between North and South that was pioneered by Mr. Chung. The project, he said, was his last duty.
His sons Mong-hun and Mong-joon were regarded as his favorites. Mr. Chung wanted Mong-hun to inherit his enterprises and Mong-joon to accomplish his political ambitions.
Mong-hun showed his duty toward his father, saying in his last note “ . . . North Korean projects should be accomplished as the honorary chairman wished.”
Kim Yoon-kyu, a Hyundai official, said, “He sacrificed himself to keep the business alive.”
Mr. Chung’s suicide apparently was his last option to ensure the Mount Geumgang project, which his father left to him. We can understand his request that, contrary to Confucian burial tradition, his body should be incinerated and scattered on Mount Geumgang. But even with loyalty to his father, Mr. Chung might not be able to guarantee the business. His suicide might conceal political deals, but in politics there is no such thing as special ties between father and son.
by Oh Byeong-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.