[Viewpoint] The lesson of the happiest bread

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[Viewpoint] The lesson of the happiest bread

The popular KBS drama series “The King of Baking: Kim Tak-goo” ended recently, offering profound life lessons to viewers through three bread making challenges. Master Palbong tells the protagonist Kim Tak-goo and his rival Gu Ma-jun to make “the most filling bread in the world.”

Tak-goo recalls his street days when he was hungry and poor and makes bread for a child he met at a market.

Although he did not use expensive or fancy ingredients, Tak-goo’s barley rice bread can be the most filling bread in the world because it contains his heart to care for others.

If your bread only fills your stomach, it is not truly a filling bread. When your heart is filled with happiness from helping others satisfy their hunger, your creation is truly the most filling bread.

The second challenge by Master Palbong is the “most interesting bread in the world.” Palbong first asks his two apprentices what they think is the most important element in baking. Tak-goo and Ma-jun respond that yeast is most crucial because it makes the dough rise. Now Master Palbong orders them to make bread without using yeast.

To the young bakers, it was a fresh challenge and adventure. Trying to find the answer, Tak-goo goes through tough, yet unique experiments with various fermentation methods. He has his struggles and failures, but he completes the most interesting bread in the world after challenges and adventures.

Master Palbong’s last challenge is “the happiest bread in the world.” However, the master’s unexpected death turns the challenge into his last wish. What is the happiest bread in the world? The challenge is left as a lifelong task for Master Palbong’s favorite apprentice.

Just before Master Palbong dies, Tak-goo says, “Teacher, I want to be a master artisan.”

But Master Palbong says, “Don’t try too hard to become a master. You just live your life and make bread of your own by blowing in the joy, anger, sorrow and happiness from your experience. Then, you will be a true artisan, and that is just enough.”

Master Palbong is right.

What makes someone a great master is not obtaining a complete set of skills. You can be called a master when you present your character and uniqueness in your creation. At the end of the series, Tak-goo inherits the company from his father but hands it over to his business-minded sister.

Then he returns to Palbong Bakery, where he first learned to bake, and starts from the beginning once again. It is truly touching to see the warm-hearted baker working to make bread of his own.

When he is putting all his life experiences into the bread, he is baking the happiest bread in the world. You are happiest when you can be just what you are. After all, the happiest bread in the world is bread that contains the baker’s identity.

“Fairness” is the hottest subject in the Korean society today, and the television series “Kim Tak-goo: the King of Baking” illustrates the dramatic vision of what we encounter in real life. Half brothers and rivals Tak-goo and Ma-jun face each other in contests and competitions, but they are hardly fair. However, Tak-goo overcomes all the unfair schemes and embraces even those who have threatened and attacked him.

Maybe, it was only possible just in the drama. Tak-goo wins the challenges, inherits the family business and finds happiness, but in reality Tak-goo might not have been able to defeat Ma-jun.

Viewers raved about the series because they felt satisfaction when underdog Tak-goo defeats the inevitably unfair society, just like David triumphs over Goliath.

Establishment of a fair society can never be emphasized enough. However, we should never forget the purpose and goal of a fair society as well as the means to get to it. The goal a fair society pursues is, in short, everyone making their happiest bread.

The road to a fair society is never a journey to attain uniform equality. It should be a process of each member of the society baking his own bread with a recipe of his personality and life experience.

“Kim Tak-goo: the King of Baking” was a drama that projected such values, and as an ardent viewer of the show, I will miss this great story.

*Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Chung Jin-hong
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