Nothing is more powerful than love
A few years ago, I met Hwangbo Taejo and his wife, who have a tomato farm in Guryongpo, North Gyeongsang. Some may remember them as the authors of the 2001 bestseller “Baby Pheasant Chasers,” which chronicles their parenthood. They are known for getting their children through the best schools in the country. Two of their five children went to Seoul National University’s medical school, two went to Gyeongbuk University’s medical school and one graduated from Catholic University of Daegu. To me, they are uncle and aunt - all the children in his family and my family went to the same high school. They may look like ordinary farmers, but my mother had the highest respect for them and shared a dear friendship that lasted 26 years.
They already have five grandchildren. The sons and daughters of Mr. Hwangbo use the good old parenting tricks of their parents with their children. Mr. Hwangbo did not finish high school and has been engaged in physical labor all his life, from peddling to farming. Because they did not have money or an educational background, the couple discussed how to teach their children and came up with all kinds of strategies. The four daughters were playing with paper dolls when they first began learning their letters. When the girls call the doll Lari, they would point out at the letter “La” on snack wrappers. They were encouraged to draw pictures everywhere and were given compliments and words of encouragement to boost their confidence. The parents had the son write letters. When the mother went to the market to sell the produce they grew, the boy was to write the names of the fruits he wanted to have. When he drew the letters for apple on the picture book, the mom would bring the apple. In a few weeks, they mastered the Korean writing system.
What about Chinese characters? They started learning “Chinese for Children.” The children memorized 40 characters a day before starting the easier two books. After struggling with the hard ones at first, the children found the first two books far easier and finished them in no time.
Their stories inspired and embarrassed me at the same time. What I lacked as a mother was neither money nor information. It was devotion and effort. Nowadays, parents scout for help from “experts” whenever they encounter a challenge. Tutors are in charge of grades, and the teachers are in charge of discipline. But they would all slowly but surely prove that there is nothing more powerful than love and devotion.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ree