[FOUNTAIN]The dutiful ones

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[FOUNTAIN]The dutiful ones

The early 20th century novel “Geumsu Hoeuirok,” or “Convention of Birds and Beasts,” was the first Korean novel banned by the Japanese imperialists for criticizing the situation in Korea and encouraging self-reliance. However, the book’s actual message was to convey the restoration of ethics among people.
The first animal in the convention to stand at the lectern among the eight animal speakers was a crow. The crow was used as a tool to stress the fact that filial piety was the origin of all virtues. The crow derided the impiety of human beings by reminding them of Bai Juyi, a Tang Dynasty poet, who the crow called Tseng-tzu. He was well-known for being dutiful to his parents. But Confucius was not impressed. When Tseng-tzu tried to pay a cordial visit to Confucius, the master refused to see him.
He said these words: “As a child, Emperor Shun was hated by his father and stepmother, but he was still dutiful to his parents. When his parents tried to give him a lesson, he would kneel down and get the cane. However, when his parents’ intention was to kill him, he ran away and waited for the fury to subside so his parents could be saved from committing murder. However, Tseng-tzu once fainted after being clubbed by his father. Now who is a really dutiful son?”
The Talmud has the Western version of filial piety.
A man always provided all kinds of delicacies for his father’s meal. When the father asked where he got the food, the son cut off the conversation and snapped, “Just enjoy the meal.” In the same village, a miller had a son. When the king ordered all the millers to come and work at the palace, the son went to the palace for his father. So people complimented the son who served nice meals to his father and criticized the son who let his father work at the mill by himself. The latter ended up in heaven while the former went to hell.
A Korean version goes this way. One day, a mother filed a complaint about her son’s impiety. The governor’s mother invited the mother and had the son watch the governor waiting on her. In less than 10 days, the mother and the son admitted their faults, but they were ordered to stay longer. After the son repented by knocking his head on the ground until his face turned red with blood, they were permitted to go. A dutiful son was born.
Filial piety is universal. Even Jesus was a dutiful son to Joseph and Mary. However, you do not like to serve your parents when you are able to do so. When one realizes that it’s time to be dutiful to one’s parents, they may already be gone.


by Lee Hoon-beom

The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.

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