[Viewpoint] Monk set an example for politicians

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[Viewpoint] Monk set an example for politicians

“Venerable Beopjeong, the fire is on!” the monks shouted as they piled on wood. Were they warning Beopjeong to clench his teeth? The monks chanted their warning when there was no way for the late monk to dodge the flames. At first, the monks chanted, “The fire is going in, please come out.” But where should Beopjeong go when he has abandoned everything? The farewell is so absurd and beautiful.

Beopjeong died leaving no coffin, no crystal relics. His cremated ashes will be scattered over the mountain where he lived. Such a simple funeral makes the life of the respected monk even fuller.

French President Charles de Gaulle chose a simple death as well. During the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1944, de Gaulle’s resistance movement saved the soul of France. After the war, he was elected president and led the modernization of France. When he lost a national referendum in 1969, he resigned from the presidency and moved to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. He died suddenly the following year.

De Gaulle deserved the grandest national funeral, but he had written a will 18 years before his death. He specifically requested that his funeral should not be a state event, and his tombstone should state only his name. He made it clear that no presidents, ministers or government officials should attend his funeral; only the military could attend officially. No one was to make a speech in his memory, and the congress should not make a funeral address. He refused to be rewarded any medal or badge by France or any foreign government. De Gaulle made specific demands in his will, and France respected them. The simple, humble funeral left even more profound memories of the president.

Former president Roh Moo-yun said that life and death are all pieces of nature. He asked that only a small tombstone be erected in his hometown. But his grand state funeral was filled with regret and resentment. Han Myeong-sook, a co-chair of the funeral committee, sobbed in front of the incumbent president and assembled citizens saying, “Mr. President, I’m sorry I could not protect you.” Did she mean that Roh needed saving because someone took something away from him? Which value should a former prime minister prioritize, the judicial order of the nation or the sentiment of her allies?

The progressive camp has declared it will evoke Roh’s spirit for the June 2 local elections by honoring the first anniversary of his death on May 23. Such noisy mourning undermines the life of the president.

Beopjeong’s book “Non-possession” is about more about not being greedy than owning and possessing. In the 1970s, opposition leader Lee Cheol-seung said, “Religion is the water-supply system and politics is the sewage service.” Religion provides healing water to passengers who fell off the train called desire. Beopjeong did not ride the train, but he stood not far from the tracks. By publishing more than 30 books, he constantly provided water to the people. He was secluded in Suncheon and a remote mountain in Gangwon Province, but his spirit rolled in the mundane world. He was a first-class waterworks technician.

When secular desires collide and get entangled, they produce sewage called discord. When the sewer is properly maintained, the discord does not threaten society. Politics is the work of operating the sewage system. Someone has to work in the sewer, but who will abandon greed in order to keep it clean?

Political leaders need to wear rubber boots and take up shovels, and President Lee Myung-bak should take the lead. The president, who is also an elder of his church, displayed religious tolerance by paying a condolence call to Beopjeong. He said that he was influenced by Beopjeong’s Non-possession and decided to donate 30 billion won ($25.6 million) to continue his work.

However, that’s not enough for Lee to become a first-class sewage technician. He must set an example for the power group.

The Lee administration has not done a good job in the sewer system of power. Two years ago, greedy power holders committed the “non-mainstream nomination massacre.” They could not win the heart of Park Geun-hye because they were so greedy. Former president Kim Young-sam said, “An incumbent president might not be able to make his successor, but he can make someone fail.” That is the language of greed.

Will Lee Myung-bak abandon fair competition and fall into the trap of greed? If he does, he will damage the sewer system of the ruling party.


*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Kim Jin
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