People are more lovely than flowers

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People are more lovely than flowers


“It is only wishful thinking that people are more beautiful than flowers.”

I had thought this would be the theme for this column until last Friday. Throughout last week, those in power used betrayal, lies and suspicion to attack one another as if they were competing to see who could go lower, and I had grown tired of their ugly faces. I thought I would get some chrysanthemums, currently in season, to find consolation. Then, some events that happened over the weekend made me change my mind.

On Friday evening, I was informed that Kim Dong-kyun, executive editor of the Korea JoongAng Daily, died. He was already a veteran national news reporter when I joined the newspaper and was a great supporter of me throughout my career. One of his fortes was his bright smile. It is a rare quality among middle-aged men in Korea.

He also knew how to give compliments. In fact, not all praise can make an elephant dance. Depending on the character, sincerity and competency of the person who gives the praise, the outcome could vary.

But Kim’s compliments had the power to make an elephant dance. While he was undergoing chemotherapy, he came into work. With his signature smile, he mentioned some of my columns and told me, “You are the best.” I know I cannot be “the best,” but his praise assured and encouraged me as always. I almost forgot that he was battling cancer, not realizing that it would be our last encounter.

Later, I attended singer Insooni’s concert at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan. I consider her my mentor because I always learn from her positive and hopeful attitude. When I was the chief of the weekend edition, the team was preparing for a trip to the Baekdudaegan mountain range with a celebrity.

But two days before the trip, a singer who was supposed to join the trip backed out. The team was in a panic, and I thought of Insooni, who had said she would like to walk along the trail someday, just as casually as a lunch proposal. I called her and explained what happened. She gladly took the offer and said, “Sure, we promised, right?”

After completing her schedule in Suncheon, South Jeolla, the day before, she arrived in Gangwon Province about midnight. The next morning, she was ready to climb.

As always, her weekend concert spread an optimistic message. During the concert, she said, “We are doing right if we get to comfort one another. Growing old is not a big deal if we can bring consolation and encouragement.”

She is right. Flowers cannot give the kind of consolation that Mr. Kim and Insooni have provided. I changed my mind.

“People are more beautiful than flowers.”

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

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