[Outlook]A day to remember innocenceDon’t touch that! Children hear this a hundreds times a day. Children’s hands keep moving but they are being stopped all the time. Children get to know the world by touching everything. Like a puppy, children smell an object, bring it to their mouth and taste it. That’s the way children learn about the world.
They eventually graduate from the touching and tasting stage and become dependent on their eye sight. They grow into adults while reading books, watching TV and checking texts on their mobiles.
Do you remember how you were in your childhood? Your mother was the most beautiful person in the world.
Whenever you were sick, your mother healed you. The playground in your school seemed huge. The alley that led to your house seemed endlessly long. A newly paved road stretched into what seemed like a different country.
Childhood is like a place where we want to go back and take a rest whenever we feel exhausted. Sometimes, we have wounds from our childhood that never go away, like a well that does not move. These wounds control or direct our entire life. Childhood is the well of our existence and we draw from it until we die.
In fact, it has not been long that children have been viewed as precious human beings because, before modern times, many children died young. As they were growing up, they were regarded as an immature labor force inside their families. When times were bad, families used to abandon or sell their children. Children were weak and unable to resist so they were objects to be handled at will. This thought is mirrored in “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White.”
The Korean story “A Filial Daughter, Shim Cheong” is also about selling a daughter. Children’s stories can be beautified to teach filial duties, a major foundation stone of our society.
In “Oliver Twist” young boys are kidnapped and forced to become pickpockets. Before modern times, people had no problem with selling young boys and girls for grain or paddy fields.
In modern times, children have been given respect as objects of education. As public education system was established, and children were designated as beings in need of enlightenment.
To teach and lead children in the right direction became a grown-up’s responsibility.
Children who do not want to go to school and just want to have fun are to be punished. Children should not lie and should not mix with bad boys when their parents are not watching.
“Pinnocchio” provides a model for children who are being educated in the school system. Only those children who go to school every day and do as they are told, can be changed from wooden dolls into real humans.
Meanwhile, in fantasy stories or modern movies, children are no longer dependent characters to be trained and educated. Harry and his friends in “Harry Potter” and the Hobbits in “The Lord of the Rings” are heroes who save the world from corruption. In “Princess Mononoke,” the princess rescues the woods that adults have ruined. Unlike adults, children in these films do not attempt to conquer the world.
With creative imagination, the young boys and girls practice magic or live an idle life, enjoying eating and drinking.
Grown-ups want to do something for children on Children’s Day. They try to give as much love as possible to children. Perhaps, Children’s Day is not only about taking good care of young children but also about finding our own childhoods all over again through children.
We will probably find the dreams that we used to have when we were young.
Looking at big, deer-like eyes of children, we perhaps try to find the innocence in ourselves.
When we are young we are anxious to grow up and when we’ve become grown-ups we yearn to go back to our childhood, the time when our mother looked like the most beautiful person in the world, our pulse ran faster than an adult’s, and we learned about the world by touching and tasting.
Times always pass by. Let’s remember our childhood. Let’s treasure the dreams we used to have.
*The writer is a professor of Korean literature at Pyeongtaek University.
by Kim Yong-hee