A letter of apology on Parents’ Day

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A letter of apology on Parents’ Day


A senior journalist used to send his thoughts out via text message from time to time, and he recently wrote a letter of apology ahead of Parents’ Day, which this year falls on May 8 in Korea. “I reflected on whether I am being a good son to my parents and a good parent to my children,” he wrote.

The seemingly ordinary words touched me, especially the latter ones. I always thought Parents’ Day was an opportunity to express gratitude to my family and celebrate with my children. But it never occurred to me that it is also a day to reassess my actions as a parent.

Frankly, I have been feeling quite cynical about the concept of “family” lately. Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano famously said that family is something you want to abandon when no one is looking, and I agreed with him. Egocentric, pure-blooded and patriarchal ideas are hidden behind the idea of family and its values. Even those who advocate justice, including myself, hope that their own children will have a soft-landing at the top of the social ladder and turn materialistic. I always thought that’s how life goes, but on the other hand, I highlighted Japanese writer Kenji Miruyama’s words, “Only the parents believe that the parental love is true” and “The one who raises you will destroy you.”

Yet this May was different. I contemplated the meaning of “family month.” I have never been more grateful to see the sleeping faces of my children, safe at the end of the day.

I was reminded of when my father passed away 25 years ago. Just as the victims on the sinking ferry off Korea’s southwest coast yearned for their moms and dads, I will be thinking of my beloved family on my final day.

I was a child of my parents and have become parents of my children. We learn how to look after our children not at school but at home from our own mothers and fathers. Parents are the people who have to prove themselves throughout their lives. The victims of the ferry tragedy will see if grown-ups keep their pledge to be good parents and responsible adults.

When the East Japan earthquake killed more than 20,000 people, Kitano said, “This is not one incident in which 20,000 people died. It is 20,000 incidents, each of which one person died.” If you look at the disaster as a single incident with 20,000 deaths, you could easily compare it to the Sichuan earthquake that resulted in 80,000 deaths. But the value of each human life is not one 20,000th or one 80,000th.

I hope the network executive who compared the Sewol ferry disaster to the number of traffic accidents in Korea will learn from Kitano’s words.

*The author is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


JoongAng Ilbo, May 10, Page 31.

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