Veteran lawmaker muses death and politics

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Veteran lawmaker muses death and politics

If there is an award for longevity and good health, a strong candidate would be Song Bang-yong, 91, a former National Assembly representative appointed as chairman of Heonjeonghwe, or the Parliamentarians Society of Korea, with a membership of about 1,000 former lawmakers.
Last month, the society held an election for top positions within the association, and Mr. Song defeated three other “youngster” candidates in their 60s and 70s by getting 57 percent of the vote.
“I don’t wear a hearing aid, glasses, dentures, or use a cane. Whether I become the chairman or not, let’s go to Dokdo and to Mount Baekdu,” said Mr. Song in his speech before the vote.
Mr. Song was born in Gimje, North Jeolla province, in 1913 and majored in English literature. During the ’70s, Mr. Song held many civil service and Assembly positions, wielding much influence. However, in the ’80s he stopped working for the administration, having seemingly reached his peak in the Park Chung Hee era. But a generation change later he was suddenly back on the scene.
Mr. Song said he has some secrets to his health and longevity. He noted that he was born healthy; second, he doesn’t smoke and exercises every day. Also, he is in bed before 9 p.m. and up at 6 a.m. In the morning, he kicks a bamboo poll 1,000 times and practices yoga for an hour. He also walks 7,000 steps a day.
Along with a healthy lifestyle, Mr. Song said another thing kept him healthy: his good relationship with his wife.
She died four years ago, but he keeps her urn next to his bed along with her picture. Everyday on his way out of the house, Mr. Song says to the urn, “See you later,” and “Honey, I’m home,” when he gets back.
He lives with his grandchildren and says his life is comfortable. His children, who live in the United States, provide him with financial support. When he dies, Mr. Song said he wants to be cremated and for his children to spread his ashes along with his wife’s in a river.
“I’ve looked around cemeteries in advanced countries back in the ’70s. Too many cemeteries mean that the dead are trespassing on the territory of the living,” he said, pointing out the problems of current cemeteries in the country.
Mr. Song also gave pointed advice to presidential candidates who visited the Parliamentarians Society of Korea back in 2002. He said, “If our successors are not doing the job properly, the senior members of society should start talking.” The biggest worries for Mr. Song these days are national security and diplomatic relations.
“How will we survive without the United States, surrounded by stronger countries? Besides, diplomacy is not only about talking. We have to increase our national power instead.
“Also, the president of the nation should be cautious with his words, especially in diplomatic affairs,” he said.


by Kim Jin
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