[FOUNTAIN]Back to their rootsOriginally, the word “homecoming” was not well differentiated from the word “exile.” According to the “Book of Tang,” Hainan was the notorious destination where officials were sent into exile. In the “Water Margin,” a classic Sung Dynasty novel about bandits, Wu Song, one of the 108 outlaws, was banished to Hainan.
The most cunning of all homecomings was the case of Cai Jing, a state minister in the Sung Dynasty. As one of four villainous retainers of the time, he lived over 80 years. He cleverly exploited struggles among factions. When power was not on his side, he abandoned his post and returned to his home town, only to come back to the government when the situation turned favorable. He repeated this four times and enjoyed wealth and influence until his last days. Notorious as a cunning courtier, he frequently appears in novels set in the Sung Dynasty. Cai Jing can be found in the novel “Jin Ping Mei” as the corrupt minister to whom Ximen Qing gives bribes and in “Water Margin” as the evil minister who conspired to poison and kill a bandit leader, Sung Jiang.
The most dignified homecoming was that of Tau Yuanming of the East Jin Dynasty. He said, “How could I bend over for five sacks of rice?” and abandoned his government post. His homecoming is remembered as the model of integrity.
We can hardly find a more pitiable homecoming than that of Fan Zeng, an advisor to Xiang Yu who fought against Liu Bang, the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty. When Xiang Yu was tricked by Liu Bang and tried to kill Fan Zeng, Fan Zeng begged Xiang Yu, “My soul and flesh is all yours, my lord, so please have mercy just to allow my useless bones to be brought back and buried where they came from.” Even today, when high-ranking officials request they be allowed to resign, the phrase is often used.
The most recent and vivid memory of a heart warming homecoming was that of the American football player Hines Ward. Mr. Ward has kept his promise to make a second visit to Seoul and help the interracial population in Korea.
President Roh Moo-hyun recently expressed an intention to return to his home town when he steps down. If he does, he would be the first Korean president to retire to his home town. He also suggested that he would not play politics after he retires, and would devote his time trying to protect and heal the ecological system. Though his opponents call it a “political homecoming,” the president’s homecoming would be a truly beautiful one if he keeps his promise.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.