[VIEWPOINT]Father of all Korea’s childrenAll parents have the same desire. They wish for their sons’ and daughters’ happiness. We know that without having to think of the song “Dad’s Younger Years” sung by the popular artist Oh Gi-taek. Parents don’t stop at wishing for the future happiness of their children. They want to do everything in their power to open up and clear a way for them.
So I thought hard about it, and felt a little ashamed of myself. I am not entitled to criticize Kim Byong-joon, the nominee for deputy prime minister of education, as far as the foreign language high school matter is concerned. Neither am I qualified to blame Kim Jin-pyo, the outgoing deputy prime minister of education. If I were in the same position they were in a few years ago, I would also have either transferred or enrolled my children at a foreign language high school. And if my children wanted, I would have helped them to choose a non-language major when they applied for a seat at a university.
I would have done everything possible to increase the chances of making them happier as long as those things were not illegal. Both of them, Kim Byong-joon and Kim Jin-pyo, have the same heart of a parent as I do. The only difference between them and me is that they were, or are expected to be, the deputy prime minister of education and I am not.
Duplicity in the conduct of life has always been a topic of criticism by intellectuals since the old days. But there is an aspect in which the two Kims may feel victimized, because their duplicity was brought about by a change in national policy. Actually, could there be anyone strong enough to resist the temptation to do things for their children and brave enough to refuse private education for them in Korean society? One of the most popular cram school instructors, who taught students at a private educational institute in Seoul’s Gangnam district with a salary of 1.8 billion won ($1.9 million) a year, said, “Korean people generally have a two-faced attitude toward private education. I saw that a professor of education at Seoul National University who criticized private education at official meetings did not hesitate to meet with popular cram school instructors to help his children enroll in a good university.”
There are many other examples of intellectuals who should be ashamed of themselves. Let’s look at the case of the legendary Joseon Dynasty civil servant Song Sun, who wrote a collection of long verses, called “Myeonangjeong-ga.”
In one of his verses, he wrote: “I finished building a small house with three rooms after 10 years of work. One room was for myself, one room was for the moon and another for the fresh wind. Since there is no room for the river and the mountains, I will place them around me and enjoy looking at them.”
But Song Sun’s life in reality was far from so poor that it would take him 10 years to build a three-room house. According to his will, he left hundreds of servants and 2,000 sacks of rice to his eight children. He was a millionaire singing of being content amid poverty ― a typical example of the duplicity of Joseon Dynasty scholars. (Lee Duk-il, “Looking at the History of the Joseon Dynasty Through Factional Strifes.”)
The “two dads of foreign-language high school students” will attend ceremonies marking their hand-off of the ministerial position. Since Kim Jin-pyo is leaving anyway, I would like to make one request of Kim Byong-joon. My request is that he put as much heart into his efforts for the children of Korea as he did for his own children when he was searching for a way to get them into a foreign language high school.
I’m not sure whether he even knows that a second-year high school boy in the Gangbuk district in Seoul committed suicide on May 3. According to the police, the student did poorly on his mid-term math examination. On May 30, a second-year high school girl in the same district also killed herself. This student had a good school record, but she had not completed her mid-term examination when the bell rang, and worried that a bad score would affect her high school record.
One high school teacher heard the sad story and wrote on an Internet site out of grief and bitterness: “Shouldn’t people who established the policies that drove students into a corner, and those who sent implementation orders to schools feeling happy that the policy was rational, at least feel ashamed of themselves? Perhaps the deaths of these children were caused by the government. Even a wild thought that the children should be buried in the national cemetery came to my mind.”
What are the first things Kim Byung-joon should do in his new post of education minister? I think he should keep his “father’s heart” close to his “deputy prime minister’s heart.”
The two hearts should not be different from each other as we saw in other people’s cases. If you think that your children are important, you should know that other people’s children are important too.
* The writer is the sports and culture editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Roh Jae-hyun
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