Awards for lessons in humanity

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Awards for lessons in humanity

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Seong Ki-chang, a veterinarian at Hakseong Animal Clinic, teaches students lessons in humanity by having them take care of animals. By Song Bong-geun

Seong Ki-chang, a veterinarian at Hakseong Animal Clinic, was delighted when he received a phone message from Hyeon-ju that he passed the exam to become a pet beautician last February.

Hyeon-ju, which is a pseudonym, is mentally disabled. He volunteered at Seong’s clinic for two years taking care of abandoned or sick animals. He trimmed cats and bathed dogs.

Seong had seen that Hyeon-ju’s personality, which was aggressive when he first started at the clinic, changed gradually as he took care of weak animals. His sense of responsibility, social skills and pride grew.

Seong felt that Hyeon-ju’s initial aggressiveness was the result of long-time ostracism from people because of his disability. But two years of volunteering at Seong’s hospital made Hyeon-ju a different person, and led to his dream of being a pet beautician.

Seong started taking care of abandoned animals in 2003. Two years later, he came up with the idea that the animals cast off by people could actually help others become better people. He believed he could help students build their sense of humanity from the first step of taking care of animals.

He lectured students about abandoned animals at local day care centers and after-school programs. The number of students he has taught has reached more than 10,000. He spent about 50 million won ($45,500) on teaching the students. The money came out of his own pocket.

“Children build an upright personality by taking care of weak animals,” Seong said.

Seong’s efforts were recognized at the Humanity Education Award ceremony on Dec. 4 at the National Assembly Member’s Office Building in Yeongdeungpo District, Southwestern Seoul. The award was hosted by the Ministry of Education, Joongang Ilbo and Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The award was initiated last year.

Kim Hyo-shin, another winner, is a commander in the army. He taught soldiers under his command lessons inhumanity by reading books.

Kim selected a book for all the soldiers to read once every three months and discussed the book after roll calls. The soldiers turned in book reports afterward. Soldiers who showed excellent command of the materials got time off as awards.

Kim believed that personality and character matters to soldiers, which he learned from the history of Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1945-58), a well-respected Korean naval commander of the Joseon Dynasty.

“It is not well known, but the ultimate factor that allowed Yi to defeat the Japanese navy was his personality,” Kim said.

Kim also wanted to make the time young men spent in the military helpful and educational instead of just being a waste, which many young Koreans males consider it.

Hwangsan elementary school in Yangsan, North Gyeongsang, won the group award for its nature-friendly environment.

As soon as students walk into the school building, ponds and gardens come into sight. In the ponds, goldfish and a variety of water plants such as water hyacinth and irises live.

On the second, third and the fourth floors, ponds that are half the size of classrooms are present. Bracken, moss and other shade plants live in the ponds.

“Students who had emotional instabilities gradually recover from them as they get exposed to nature every day,” said Shin Heung-jae, principal of the school.

Shin also made a textbook called “Happiness” that includes lessons on filial duties and public order along with the usual Korean and social studies.

Seoul Women’s University has implemented lessons in humanity for the 53 years since the school was established. The students stay at the humanity education building to learn a sense of community spirit and courtesy. The program is three weeks for freshmen and two weeks for sophomores. Seoul Women’s University won the Ministry of Education award at the contest.

BY YUN SUK-MAN, SHIN JIN [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]




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