Aging is not a punishment
A movie and a play both centered on a relationship between a man in his 70s and a young woman are sparking controversy in Korea. Japanese playwright Kouki Mitani’s “If I am With You” and the film “Eungyo” based on Park Beom-sin’s best seller of the same title, convey a special message from an ordinary subject.
In the play, Ayumi brings her boyfriend Kenya to a family event. While the family believes that Kenya is a young businessman, he is actually 40 years her senior. The family works together to make sure the mother does not find out, but one lie leads to another. The chaotic situation brings about constant laughs, and I was giggling the whole time. Interestingly, I initially expected the unrealistic couple to break up, but as the story moved on, I ended up rooting for their relationship. The old boyfriend does his best to get approval from the family of his girlfriend, and his positive attitude won my heart.
The movie “Eungyo” is a tragic tale of a 70-year-old poet and a 17-year-old girl. The poet has honor and knowledge, and the girl has youth. They desire what they don’t have from each other. In the end, jealousy brings down everything. “Just as your youth is not a reward for your efforts, my age is not a punishment for my faults.” I found the negative perspective on getting old quite uncomfortable. Is getting old a punishment? No. Getting old is simply not a punishment.
Just in time, the city of Seoul is holding a contest for a new term to replace the word “elderly” as it seems to lessen their motivation in life.
I have seen many people who would like to go back to their youth, but I do not want to go back. When I was young, I struggled and did my best every moment. While I have my share of regrets, I don’t want to go back to the beginning and suffer again. Ten years later, I would miss today, but I wouldn’t want to come back here. I always do my best, and I am more interested in the future than the past.
What would have happened if the old poet in “Eungyo” were a confident, positive and motivated man like Ayumi’s boyfriend? Instead of being jealous, gloomy and frustrated, he would have made his best efforts to complete his love. Knowledge and prestige can certainly be sexual charms just like youth and freshness. He shouldn’t have to be so lonely and secretly admire the young woman. As long as you’re healthy, you can do anything.
By the way, what would you do when your grown-up daughter brings home a 70-year-old boyfriend? Would you cheer for their love and bless their future?
* The author is a guest columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Eom Eul-soon