She is always right, you know?

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She is always right, you know?


I heard an interesting story from a friend who visited the residence of former President Kim Young-sam in Sangdo-dong, Seoul. After a pleasant chat, Kim retreated to the second floor, where the master room is located. As the visitor was about to leave the house, he heard a sudden shout, “Salute!” It was so loud that the visitor asked the secretary what it was about. The secretary giggled and said, “Mr. Kim gives a salute to his wife a few times a day, just to entertain her.” As we chatted, I heard another “salute” from upstairs.

Living as a wife of a politician is a challenge. It’s a struggle both physically and mentally. Nowadays, Han Gwang-ok, who had served as the Chief of Staff and the ruling party chairman, stays by his wife, Jeong Yeong-ja, to provide care and companionship. Ms. Jeong was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago. Throughout their lives, Han was busy with his political career, and now as he stays home to be with her and accompanies her to take a walk, she said she was able to deal with her cancer. Han felt extremely sorry for not being there for her when they were younger. So it must have been even harder to be a wife of former president; she had to endure the days when their lives were threatened.

The salutation to the wife suggests a rather naive and boyish attitude. Kim Young-sam was known for verbal blunders and unintentional mispronunciations due to his thick accent and dialect, saying “yogurt bribery scandal,” instead of “recruit bribery scandal.” Kim and his wife, Sohn Myeong-soon, are both 83 years old. She is not in the best of health, so when they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, she was helped by other people. And Kim Young-sam wants to entertain her by giving her salutes. Ms. Sohn seems to enjoy the cute tricks. I asked their son, Kim Hyeon-cheol, and he said, “My mother would laugh and give back a salute.” Kim was known to be rather blunt and curt, but he gives many hugs to his wife these days. “They became very affectionate to each other,” said Kim.

Politicians are not the only ones who feel sorry for their wives as they grew older. The average life span grew drastically, and aging couples increasingly experience marital problems. What will be the solution to save the marriage and have a happy life as an old couple? The only way for the husbands is to surrender and acknowledge that “she is always right,” explains Roger Rosenblatt in his book, “Rules for Aging.” Kim Young-sam must have figured out the solution to be shouting out, “salute,” to his wife.

*The writer is a culture and sports writer and editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Noh Jae-hyun
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