[FOUNTAIN]Foolish fathersPoet Kim Hyun-seung, who lived from 1914 to 1975, published the poem “Abeojiui Maeum” meaning father’s mind, in 1970. In this poem he described fathers as the loneliest figures in the world. Kim wrote that fathers are people who worry about the future of their children with minds anxious as sparrows sitting on wires. “There are no tears in the father’s eyes/ but in the liquor he drinks/ half of the drink is tears we cannot see.” These phrases well describe the love and sacrifice fathers give their families. Unlike their authoritative outward appearances, the reality of fathers is that they feel a sense of futility about themselves and are painful with worries about the family. At the time, this poem was evaluated as exceptional in Korea’s patriarchal society.
Poet Park Mok-wol, who lived from 1916 to 1978, revealed his thoughts on the burdensome lives fathers have through his work “Gajeong,” meaning family. “Walking the cold path of humiliation and hunger/ I have come/ Father has come/ No, the size nine-and-a-half shoes have come/ No, in the world/ a sloppy person called father/ exists/ looks at my face/ smiling.” The poem talks about the complicated emotions of a father who has endured all kinds of humiliation for his family but is thought of as a worthless figure.
In the past, fathers were stern but were respected. In a submission, a reader wrote that “Fathers are those who clear their throats when they feel good and laugh joyfully when they feel afraid.” It is hard to see through to the inside of a father’s mind since it is like glass smeared with black ink. We come to realize while growing up that fathers are people who are sad because they don’t have a place to cry.
However, the role of the father is changing.
As the Confucian frame of social structure is dismantled, the safeguards that protect the position of fathers have disappeared as well. Fathers have to take part in childcare and household chores with their wives and be friends with their children. There are group gatherings to learn to become good fathers and programs have been developed to fulfill this goal.
Recently, the excessive devotion of a father for his son has become a social issue. A jaebol group chairman is now facing prosecution subpoena because he made unjustifiable attempts to transfer his management rights to his son. A fistfight by a skater’s father caused a scandal as well. Yes, a father’s role is changing, but we would still like to see fathers behave with dignity. It is pathetic to see fathers running after minor favors for their own kids. Will that really be good for their kids? I doubt it.
by Park Jai-hyun
The writer is a deputy city news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.