As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen

Autobiography

 

CHAPTER ONE

FOOD IS LOVE

 

What I Learned about Peace

while Being Carried

on My Father's Back

 

(Page 2)

 

I have lived my life with

just one thought.  I wanted

to bring about a world of peace,

a world where there are no wars and

where all humankind lives in love.

Perhaps some may say,

"How is it possible that you were

thinking about peace even when

you were a child?"

Is it so astonishing that a child

would dream of a peaceful world?

 

In 1920, when I was born, Korea was

under forced occupation by Japan.

Even after liberation in 1945,

there came the Korean War,

the Asian financial crisis,

and numerous other difficult crises. 

For many years, the land of Korea

has not been

closely associated with peace.

But these times

of suffering and confusion were not

matters related only to Korea.

The two world wars, the Vietnam War,

and the wars in the Middle East

show that people in the world

continuously treat each other

with enmity, point guns at each other,

and bomb each other.

Perhaps for people who experience

these horrors

 of bloodied bodies and broken bones,

peace has been something that

could be imagined only in a dream.

Peace, though,

is not so difficlult to accomplish.

To begin with, we can find peace

in the air we breathe,

in the natural environment, and

in the people around us.

 

(Page 3)

 

As a child,

I thought of the meadows as my home. 

As soon as I could wolf down

my bowl of rice for breakfast,

I would run out of the house and

spend the entire day

in the hills and streams.

I could spend the day

wandering about the forest with

all the different birds and animals,

eating herbs and wild berries, and

I would never feel hungry.

Even as a child, I knew that

my mind and body were at ease

anytime I went into the forest.

 

I would often

fall asleep in the hills

after playing there.  My father

would be forced to come find me.

When I heard my father shouting

in the distance,

"Yong Myung! Yong Myung!" 

I couldn't help but smile,

even as I slept. 

My name as a child was Yong Myung. 

The sound

of his voice would awaken me, but

I would pretend to still be asleep.

He would hoist me onto his back

and carry me home.  That feeling

I had as he carried me

down the hill---feeling completely

secure and able to let my heart

be completely at ease---

that was peace.  That is how

I first learned about peace, while

being carried on my father's back.

 

The reason I loved the forest

was also because

all the space in the world

dwells there.

Life forms in the forest

do not fight each other.

Of course, they eat one another,

but that is because

they are hungry and need

to sustain themelves.

They do not fight out of enmity.

Birds do not hate other birds.

Animals do not hate other animals.

Trees do not hate other trees.

There needs to be an absence

of enmity for peace to come.

Human beings are the ones who hate

other members of the same species.

People hate other people

because their country is different,

and their way of thinking

is different.

 

(Page 4)

 

I have been to

almost two hundred countries.

There were not many countries

where I would land at the airport

and think to myself,

"This really is

a peaceful and contented place." 

There were many places where,

because of civil unrest,

soldiers held their weapons high,

guarding the airports

and blocking the streets. 

The sound of gunfire

could be heard day and night. 

Several times, I came close

to losing my life in places where

I went to talk about peace. 

In today's world,

there is an endless series

of conflicts and confrontations,

large and small. 

Tens of millions suffer from hunger,

with nothing to eat.  Yet, trillions

of dollars are spent on weapons. 

The money

spent on guns and bombs alone

would be enough

to end hunger for everyone.

 

I have dedicated my life

to building bridges of peace

between countries

that hate each other as enemies

because of ideology and religion. 

I created forums where Muslims,

Christians,

and Jews could come together. 

 I worked to reconcile the views

of the United States and

the Soviet Union when

they were at odds with each other

over Iraq. 

I have helped in the process

of bringing reconciliatio between

North and South Korea.  I did not

do these things for money or fame. 

From the time

I was old enough to know

what was going on in the world,

there has been only one objective

for my life:  that is for the world

to live in peace, as one. 

I never wanted anything else. 

It has not been easy to live

day and night

for the purpose of peace, but

that is the work that

makes me most happy.

 

During the Cold War,

we experienced the pain

of having our world divided

in two because of ideology.

It seemed then that

if only communism would disappear,

peace would come. 

Yet, now that the Cold War is past,

we find even more conflicts. 

We are now

fractured by race and religion. 

Many countries look across

from their borders

with suspicion and distrust. 

As if that were not enough,

we have situations within countries

where people are divided by race,

religion, or the regions

where they were born. 

People think of each other

as enemies

across these lines of division

and refuse to open their hearts

to one another.

 

(Page 5)

 

When we look at human history,

we see that the most brutal

and cruel wars were not those

fought between nations but those

between races. 

Among these, the worst were wars

between ethnic groups where religion

was used as a pretext. 

In the Bosnian civil war,

one of the worst ethnic conflicts

of the twentieth century, thousands,

including many children,

were brutally massacred.

On September 11, 2001, thousands

of innocent lives were lost as

the World Trade Center buildings

in New York were destroyed when

passenger planes

were crashed into them.

Recently, too, in the Gaza Strip

in Palestine as well as

in southern Israel,

hundreds have lost their lives

as a result

of that intense conflict. 

Homes have been destroyed,

and people are living

on the brink of death.

All this is the grim result

of conflicts between ethnic groups

and between religions.

 

What makes people hate

and kill each other like this? 

Of course there are many reasons, but

religious differences

are almost always involved. 

This was true with the Gulf War. 

It is true

with the Arab-Israeli conflict

over control of Jerusalem. 

When racism uses religion

as a pretext, the problem

becomes extremely complex. 

The evil ghosts of

the reigious wars that we thought

had ended in the Middle Ages

continue to haunt us

in the twenty-first century. 

Religious wars

continue to occur because 

many politicians

use the enmity between religions

to satisfy their selfish designs.

In the face of political power,

religions often

waver and lose their way. 

They lose sight

of their original purpose, which is

to exist for the sake of peace.

All religions have a responsibiity

to advance the cause of world peace.

Yet, lamentably, we see

that religions instead become

a cause of conflicts.

 

(Page 6)

 

Behind this evil we find

the machinations of politics,

with its power and money. 

The responsibility of a leader,

above all else, is to keep the peace. 

Yet leaders often

seem to do the opposite

and lead the world

into confrontation and violence.


Leaders use the language

of religion and nationalism

to hide their selfish ambitions.

Unless their hearts are set right,

countries and nationalities

will wander in confusion.

Neither religion nor love

of one's nation

are evil in their essence.

They are valuable if

used to contribute to building

a global human community.

But when the claim is made

that only a particular religion

or ethnic group is right and

other religions and ethnic groups

are treated

with disdain and attacked,

religion and love of nation

lose their value.

When a religion goes so far as

to trample on others and

treat other religions as worthless,

it no longer embodies goodness. 

The same is true

when love of nation is used

to emphasize the righteousness of

a person's own country over others.

 

The truth of the universe is that

we must acknowledge each other

and help each other. 

Even the smallest animals know this. 

Cats and dogs do not get along,

but if you raise them

in the same household, they

embrace each other's offspring and

are friendly toward each other.

We see the same thing in plants.

The vine that winds its way up a tree

depends on the trunk to support it. 

The tree, however, does not say,

"Hey, what do you think you are doing,

winding your way up my trunk?" 

The principle of the universe

is for everyone to live together

for the sake of one another. 

Anyone who deviates from

this principle faces certain ruin. 

If nationalities and religions continue

to attack each other maliciously,

humanity has no future. 

There will be an endless cycle

of terror and warfare

until one day we become extinct. 

But we are not without hope. 

Clearly there is hope.

 

(Page 7)

 

I have lived my life without ever

letting go of that hope and always

kept alive the dream of peace.

What I want

is to wipe away completely

the walls and fences that

divide the world in myriad ways

and to create a world of unity.

I want to tear down the walls

between religions and between races

and fill in the gap

between the rich and the poor. 

Once that is done, we can

re-establish the world of peace

that God created in the beginning. 

I am talking about a world where

no one goes hungry

and no one sheds tears.

 To heal a world

where there is no hope,

and which is lacking in love, we need

to go back to the pure hearts

that we had as children. 

To shed our desire 

to possess ever increasing amounts

of material wealth and restore

our beautiful essence as human beings,

we need to go back

to the principle of peace

and the breath of love that we learned

as we were being carried

on our father's backs.

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE)


The Joy 

Of Giving Food To Others

 

(Page 8)

 

I have very small eyes. 

I am told that

when I was born, my mother wondered,

"Does my baby have eyes or not?" 

and spread my eyelids apart

with her fingers. 

Then when I blinked, she said

with joy.  "Oh my, yes,

he does have eyes after all!"

My eyes were so small that

people often called me,

 "Osan's Little Tiny Eyes"

because my mother

was from the village of Osan.

I cannot remember anyone

saying, though, that my small eyes

make me any less attractive. 

In fact, people who

know something about physiognomy,

the art of understanding a person's

characteristics and fortune

by studying facial features,

say my small eyes give me

the right disposition

to be a religious leader.

I think it is similar to the way

that a camera is able to focus

on objects farther away

as the aperture of its lense

is reduced.

A religious leader needs to be able

to see farther into the future

than do other people, and perhaps

small eyes are an indication

of such a quality.

My nose is rather unusual as well.

Just one look and it is obvious

that this is the nose

of a stubborn and determined man.

There must be

something to physiognomy, because

when I look back on my life,

these features of my face

seem to parallel

the way I have lived my life.

 

(Page 9)

 

I was born at

2221 Sangsa Ri (village)

Deokeon District,

Jeongju Township, Pyongan Province,

as the second son of Kyung Yu Moon

of the Nampyung Moon clan

and Kyung Gye Kim

of the Yeonan Kim clan.

I was born on the sixth day

of the first lunar month in 1920,

the year after

the 1919 independence movement.

I was told that our family

settled in the village of Sansa Ri

during the life

of my great-grandfather.

My paternal great-grandfather

worked the farm himself, producing

thousands of bushels of rice,

and building the family fortune

with his own hands. 

He never smoked or drank liquor,

preferring instead

to use that money to buy food

to give to those in need.

 
When he died, his last words were,

 "If you feed people

from all the regions of Korea,

then you will receive blessings

from all those regions."

So the guest room in our home

was always full of people.

Even people from other villages

knew that if they came to our home,

they would always

count on being fed a good meal.

My mother carried out her role

of preparing food

for all those people without

ever complaining.

 

My great-grandfather was so active

he never wanted to rest. 

If he had some spare time

he would use it

to make pairs of straw footwear

he would then

sell in the marketplace. 

When he grew old

in his merciful ways,

he would buy several geese,

let them go in the wild, and pray

that all would be well

with his descendents.

He hired

a teacher of Chinese characters

to sit in the guest room of his home

and provide free literacy lessons

to the young people of the village.

 

The villagers

gave him the honorific title

"Sun Ok" (Jewel of Goodness)

and referred to our home as

"a home that will be blessed".

 

(Page 10)

 

By the time I was born

and was growing up, much of

the wealth that my great-grandfather

had accumulated was gone, and

our family had just enough to get by.

The family tradition

of feeding others was still alive,

however, and we would feed others

even if it meant

there wouldn't be enough

to feed our family members.

The first thing I learned

after I learned to walk

was how to serve food to others.

 

During the Japanese occupation,

many Koreans

had their homes and land confiscated. 

As they escaped the country

to Manchuria, where they hoped

to build new lives for themselves,

they would pass by our home

on the main road

that led to Seoncheon

in North Pyongan Province.

My mother always prepared food

for the passersby,

who came from all parts of Korea.

If a beggar came to our home

asking for food and my mother

didn't react quickly enough,

my grandfather

would pick up his meal and

take it to the beggar.

Perhaps because I was born

into such a family,

I too spent much of my life

feeding people. 

To me, giving people food

is the most precious work.

When I am eating, and I see someone

who has nothing to eat,

it pains my heart and

I cannot continue eating.

 

I will tell you something

that happened when

I was about eleven years old.

It was toward the last day

of the year, and

everyone in the village was busy

preparing rice cakes

for the New Year's feast.

There was

one neighbor family, though,

that was so poor

they had nothing to eat.

I kept seeing their faces in my mind,

and it made me so restless

that I was walking around the house

wondering what to do.  Finally,

I picked up an eight-kilogram

bag of rice

and ran out of the house.

I was in such a hurry

to get the bag of rice

out of the house that I didn't even

tie the bag closed.

I hoisted the bag onto my shoulders

and held it tight

as I ran along a steep, uphill path

for about eight kilometers

(five miles)

to get to the neighbor's home. 

I was excited

to think how good it would feel

to give those people enough food

so they could eat

as much as they wanted.

 

(Page 11)

 

The village mill

was next to our house. 

The four walls of the mill house

were well built,

so that the crushed rice

could not fall through the cracks. 

This meant that

in the winter it was a good place

to escape the wind and stay warm.

If someone took some kindling

from our home's furnace

and started a small fire

in the millhouse, it became

warmer than an 'ondol' heated room. 

(The 'ondol' heating system

from Korea warms the whole house

by dispersing heat through channels

beneath the floor.)

Some of the beggars who

traveled around the country

would decide to spend the winter

in that mill house. 

I was fascinated by the stories

they had to tell

about the world outside, and

I found myself spending time

with them every chance I got.

My mother would bring my meals

out to the mill house

and she would always bring enough

for my beggar friends

to eat as well. 

We would eat from the same dishes

and share

the same blankets at night. 

This is how I spent the winter. 

When spring came, they would leave

for faraway places

and I could not wait for winter

to come again

so they would return to our home.

Just because their bodies

were poorly clothed

did not mean that heir hearts

were ragged as well.

hey had a deep and warm love

that showed. 

I gave them food, and they

shared their love with me.

The deep friendship and warmth

they showed me back then

continue to be

a source of strength for me today.

As I go around the world and witness

children suffering from hunger,

I am always reminded

of how my grandfather never missed

a chance to share food with others.

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE)

 

Being A Friend to All

 

(Page 12)

 

Once I set my mind to do something,

I have to put it into action

immediately.

Otherwise, I cannot sleep.

As a child, I would sometimes

get an idea during the night

but be forced to wait until morning

before acting on it.

I would stay awake and make

scratches on the wall

to pass the time. This happened

so often that I would almost

dig a hole in the wall and

chunks of dirt would pile up

on the floor.

I also couldn't sleep

if I had been treated unfairly

during the day.  In such a case,

I would get out of bed

during the night,

go to the culprit's home and

challenge him

to come out and fight me. 

I am sure it must have been

very difficult

for my parents to raise me. 

 

I could not stand to see

someone treated unjustly.

Whenever there was a fight

among the children in the village,

I would involve myself

as though I were responsble to see that

justice was served in every situation.

I would decide which child in the fight

was in the wrong, and I would scold

that child in a loud voice.

Once I went to see the grandfather

of a boy who

was a bully in the neighborhood.

I said to him,  "Your grandson

has done this and that wrong.

Please take care of it."

 

(Page 13)

 

I could be wild in my actions,

but nevertheless

I was a child with a big heart.

I would sometimes

visit my married older sister

in the home of her husband's family

and demand that they serve me

rice cakes and chicken.

The adults

never disliked me for this

because they could see that

my heart

was filled with a warm love.

 

I was particularly

good at taking care of animals.

When birds made a nest in a tree

in front of our house,

I dug a small waterhole for them

to drink water.

I also scattered some hulled millet

from the storeroom on the ground

for the birds to eat.

At first, the birds would fly away

whenever someone came close. 

They soon realized, however, that

the person giving them food

was someone who loved them,

and they stopped

flying away when I approached.

 

Once I thought I would try

raising fish.  So I caught some fish

and put them in the water hole.

I also took a fistful of fish food

and sprinkled it over the water. 

When I got up

the next morning, though,

I found that all the fish

had died during the night.

I was so looking forward

to raising those fish.

I stood there in astonishment,

looking at them

floating on top of the water.

I remember

that I cried all that day.

 

My father kept many bee colonies. 

He would take a large hive 

and fasten a basic foundation

to the bottom of it.

Then the bees

would deposit their bees wax there

to create a nest and

store their honey.

I was a curious child, and

I wanted to see

just how the bees built the hive.

So I stuck my face

into the middle of the hive and

got myself

stung severley by the bees,

causing my entire face to swell

trememdously.

 

I once took the foundations

from the hive boxes

and received a severe scolding

from my father.

Once the bees had finished

building their hives,

my father would take the foundations

and stack them to one side.

These foundations were covered

with bees wax that

could be used as fuel for lamps

in place of oil.

I took those expensive foundations,

broke them up, and took them to

homes that couldn't afford

to buy oil for their lamps.

It was an act of kindness, but

I had done it

without my father's permission,

and so I was harshly reprimanded.

 

(Page 14)

 

When I was twelve we had

very little in the way of games.

The choices were

a Parcheesi-like game

called 'yute', a chess-like game

called 'janggi', and card games.

I always enjoyed it when

many people would play together.

During the day, I would like

to play 'yute' or fly my kite,

and in the evenings I would

make the rounds of the card games

going on around the village.

They were games where

the winner picked up 120 'won'

(Korean monetary unit)

after each hand, and I could

usually win at least once

every three hands.

New Year's Eve and the first

full moon of the new year

were the days

when the most gambling went on.

On those days,

the police would look the other way

and never arrest anyone for gambling.

I went

to where grownups were gambling,

took a nap during the night, and

got them to deal me in for just

three hands in the early morning,

just as they were about to

call it quits for the night.

I took the money I had won,

and bought food, toys, candy and

gift packages for my friends

and for poor children

from all the surrounding villages.

I didn't use the money for myself

or to do anything bad.

 

When my older sisters' husbands

visited our home, I would ask

permission and take money

from their wallets.  I would then

use this money to buy sweets

for children in need.

I also bought them sweet syrup.

 

In any village it is natural that

there are people who live well

and those who don't.

When I would see a child who

had brought boiled millet to school

for lunch, I couldn't eat my own

better lunch of rice.  So I would

exchange my rice for his millet.

I felt closer to the children

from poor families than to those

from rich families, and

I wanted somehow to see to it

that they didn't go hungry.

This was a kind of game that

I enjoyed most of all.

I was still a child, but

I felt that I wanted to be

a friend to everyone.

In fact, I wanted to be more

than just friends;

I wanted to have relationships

where we could share

our deepest hearts.

 

 

(Page 15)

 

One of my uncles was a greedy man.

His family owned a melon patch

near the middle of the village,

and every summer,

when the melons were ripe

and giving off a sweet fragrance,

the village children would beg him

to let them eat some. 

My uncle, though, set up a tent

on the road next to the melon patch

and sat there keeping guard,

refusing to

share even a single melon.

One day I went to him and asked,

"Uncle, would it be all right

if sometime

I were to go to your patch

and eat all the melon I want?" 

My uncle willingly answered,

"Sure, that would be fine."

 

So I sent word

to all the children that

anyone wanting to eat melon

should bring a burlap bag and

gather in front of my house

at midnight.  At midnight

I led them

to my uncle's melon patch and

told them, "I want all of you

to pick a row of melons, and

don't worry about anything."

The children shouted with joy

and ran into the melon patch.

It took only a few minutes

for several rows of melons

to be picked clean. 

That night the hungry children

of the village

sat in a clover field and

ate melons until

their stomachs almost burst.

 

The next day

there was big trouble. 

I went to my uncle's home,

and it was in pandemonium, like

a beehive that had been poked.

"You rascal,"

my uncle shouted at me. 

"Was this your doing?

Are you the one

who ruined my entire year's work

of raising melons?"

 

No matter what he said,

I was not going to back down.

"Uncle," I said,

"don't you remember? You told me

I could eat

all the melons I wanted.

The village children

wanted to eat melons, and

their desire was my desire.

Was it right for me

to give them a melon each, or

should I absolutely

not have given them any?"

 

When he heard this my uncle said,

"All right.  You're right."

That was the end of his anger.

 

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE)

 

A Definite Compass

for My Life

 

(Page 16)

 

The Moon clan 

originated in Nampyung,

 near Naju, Cholla Province,

a town about three hundred twenty

kilometers (two hundred miles)

south of Seoul, in the southwest

region of the country. 

My great-great-grandfather,

Sung Hak Moon, had three sons. 

The youngest of these was my great-

grandfather, Jung Heul Moon,

who also had three sons: 

Chi Guk, Shin Guk, and Yoon Guk. 

My grandfather, Chi Guk Moon,

was the oldest of the three.

 

Grandfather Chi Guk Moon

was illiterate, as he did not attend

either a modern elementary school

or the traditional village school.

His power of concentration

was so great, however, that

he was able to recite the full text

of the Korean translation

of 'Sam Kuk Zhi'

(a popular, widely known novel

about the 3 Kingdoms

in classical Chinese history)

just by having listened to others

read it to him.

And it wan't just 'Sam Kuk Zhi'.  

When he heard someone

tell an interesting story,

he could memorize it and recall it

in exactly the same words.

He could memorize anything

after hearing it just once.

My father took after him in this way;

he could sing from memory

the Christian hymnal, consisting

of more than four hundred pages.

 

(Page 17)

 

Grandfather followed the last words

of his father to live his life

with a spirit of giving, but

he was not able to maintain

the family's fortune. 

This was because his youngest brother,

my Great-uncle Yoon Guk Moon,

borrowed money

against the family's property

and lost it all.

Following this incident,

members of the family went through

some very hard times,

but my grandfather and father never

spoke ill of Great-uncle Yoon Guk.

This was because they knew he had not

lost the money by gambling

or anything of that nature.

Instead, he had sent the money

to the Provisional Government

of the Republic of Korea,

based in Shang-hai, China.

In those days, seventy thousand won

was a large sum, and this was

the amount that my great uncle

donated to the independence movement.

Great uncle Yoon Guk, a graduate

of Pyongyang Seminary and a minister,

was an intellectual

who was fluent in English

and well versed in Chinese studies.

He served as the responsible pastor

for three churches, including

Deok Heung Church in Deok Eon Myeon.

He participated in the drafting of

the 1919 Declaration of Independence,

together with Nam Seon Choe.

 

When it was found, however, that

three of the sixteen Christian leaders

among the signatories were associated

with Deok Heung Church,

Great-uncle had his name removed

from the list.

Seung Heun Lee,

one of the remaining signatories who

worked with my great-uncle

in establishing the Osan School,

asked Great-uncle Yoon Guk

to take care of all his affairs in case

the independence movement failed

and he died at the hands

of the Japanese colonial authorities.

 

On returning to our hometown,

Great-uncle Yoon Guk

printed thousands of Korean flags

and handed them out to the people

who poured into the streets to shout

their support for Korean independence.

He was arrested on March 8

as he led a domonstration

on the hill behind

the Aipo Myeon administrative office.

 

(Page 18)

 

The demonstration

in support of independence was

attended by the principal, faculty,

and some two thousand students

of the Osan School,

some three thousand Christians,

and some four thousand other

residents of the area.  He was given

a two-year prison sentence and

was imprisoned in the Euiju prison.

The following year he was released

as part of a special pardon.

 

Even after his release, he could

never stay long in one place,

because of severe persecution

by the Japanese police,

and he was always on the run.

He carried a large scar where

the Japanese police had tortured him

by stabbing him with a bamboo spear

and carving out a piece of his flesh.

He was speared in the legs and

in the side of his ribs,

but he said that he never gave in. 

When the Japanese

found they couldn't break him,

they offered him

the position of county-chief

if he would pledge

to stop participating

in the independence movement.

His response

was to rebuke the Japanese

in a loud voice:  "Do you think

I would take on a position and

work for you thieves?"

 

When I was

about seven or eight years old,

Great-uncle Yoon Guk was staying

in our home for a short time

and some members

of the Korean independence army

came to see him.

They were low on funds

and had traveled by night on foot

through a heavy snowfall

to reach our house.

My father covered the heads of

us children with a sleeping quilt

so that we would not be awakened.

I was already wide awake,

and I lay there under the quilt,

my eyes wide open, listening

as best I could to the sounds

of the adults talking.

Though it was late,

my mother killed a chicken and

boiled some noodles to serve

to the independence fighters.

To this day,

I cannot forget the words

that I heard

Great-uncle Yoon Guk speak

as I lay there under the quilt,

holding my breath in excitement.

 

(Page 19)

 

"Even if you die," he said,

"if you die

for the sake of our country,

you will be blessed."

He continued,

"Right now, we can see

only darkness before us, but

the bright morning is sure to come."

Because of the effects of torture,

he did not

have full use of his body, but

his voice resonated with strength.

  

I also remember

thinking to myself then,

"Why did such a wonderful person

as Great-uncle have to go to prison? 

If only we were stronger than Japan,

this wouldn't have happened."

Great-uncle Yoon Guk continued

to roam about the country,

avoiding persecution

by the Japanese police, and

it was not until 1966,

while I was in Seoul,

that I received news of him again.

Great-uncle appeared in a dream

to one of my younger cousins and

told him, "I am buried in Jeongseon,

Kangwon Province."  We went

to the address he gave in the dream

and found that he had passed away

nine years before that.  We found

only a grave mound covered with weeds.

I had his remains reburied in Paju,

Kyeonggi Province, near Seoul.

 

In the years following

Korea's liberation from Japan

in 1945, communists in North Korea

killed Christian ministers

and independence fighters

indiscriminately.

Great-uncle Yoon Guk,

fearing his presence might

cause harm to the family,

escaped the communists by crossing

south over the 38th parallel and

settling in Jeongseon.

No one

in our family was aware of this.

He supported himself

in that remote mountain valley

   by selling calligraphy brushes.

Later, we were told that he set up

a traditional village school

where he taught Chinese classics.

 

According to

some of his former students,

he often enjoyed

spontaneously composing poems

in Chinese characters.

His students

transcribed and preserved

some one hundred thirty of these,

including the following:

 

(Page 20)

 

 

SOUTH NORTH PEACE

 

Ten years have passed

since I left home to come South

The flow of time

speeds my hair to turn white 

I would return North, but how can I?

What was intended as a short sojourn

 has been prolonged

 

Wearing the long-sleeved

ko-hemp clothing of summer

I fan myself with a silk fan

 and consider

what the autumn will bring

Peace between South and North

draws near

Children waiting under the eaves,

You needn't worry so much.

 

 

Though separated from his family

and living in Jeongseon, a land

unfamiliar to him in every way,

Great-uncle Yoon Guk's heart

was filled with concerns

for his country.

Great-uncle

also left this poetic verse:

 

 

When setting your goal

in the beginning,

pledge yourself to a high standard.

Don't allow yourself

even the least

bit of private desire.

 

 

My great-uncle's contributions

to the independence movement

were posthumously recognized

by the Republic of Korea government

in 1977 with a Presidential Award

and in 1990

with the Order of Merit

for National Foundation.

Even now, I sometimes

recite his poetic verses.

They are infused with

his steadfast love for his county,

Even in

the face of extreme adversity.

 

(Page 21)

 

Recenlty, as I have grown older,

I think about

Great-uncle Yoon Guk more often.

Each phrase of his poetry

expressing his heart

of concern for his country

penetrates into my heart.

I have taught our members

the song "Daehan Jiri Ga"

(Song of Korean Geography),

whose words were written

by Great-uncle Yoon Guk himself.

I enjoy singing this song

with our members.

When I sing this song,

from Mount Baekdu to Mount Halla,

I feel relieved of my burdens.

 

 

SONG OF KOREAN GEOGRAPHY

 

The peninsula of Korea in the East,

 positioned among three countries. 

North, the wide plains of Manchuria,

East, the deep and blue East Sea,

South, a sea of many islands,

West, the deep Yellow Sea. 

Food in the seas on three sides,

Our treasure of all species of fish.

 

Mighty Mount Baekdu stands

on the North,

Providing water

to the Rivers of Amrok and Tuman,

Flowing into seas east and west,

Marking a clear border

with the Soviets.

 Mount Kumgang

shines bright in the center,

 A preserve for the world,

pride of Korea.

Mount Halla

rises above the blue South Sea,

 A landmark for fishermen at sea.

 

(Page 22)

 

Four plains of Daedong,

Hangang, Geumgang, and Jeonju

give our people food and clothing.

 Four mines of Woonsan,

Soonan, Gaecheon, and Jaeryung

give us the treasures of the Earth.

Four cities of Kyungsung,

Pyongyang, Daegu, and Kaesung

 shine over the land.

Four ports of Busan,

Wonsan, Mokpo and Incheon

welcome foreign ships.

 Railroads

spread out from Kyungsung,

Connecting the two main lines,

Kyung-Eui and Kyung-Bu,

Branch lines Kyung-Won and Honam

run north and south,

Covering the peninsula.

 

Our cities tell us our history.

Pyongyang,

2,000-year-old city of Dangun,

Kaesung, capital of Koryo,

Kyungsung,

500-year-old captial of Chosun,

Kyungju,

2,000 years of Shilla's culture

shines, origin of Pak Hyukkosai,

Chungchong has Buyo,

the historic capital of Paekche.

 

Sons of Korea

pioneering the future,

The waves of civilization wash

against our shores.

Come out of the hills, and

march forward in strength

to the world of the future!

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE)


Stubborn Child

Who Never Gives Up

 

(Page 23)

 

My father was not

good at collecting debts, but

if he borrowed money, he would

honor the pledge to repay,

even if it meant

selling the family cow or even

removing one of the pillars

from our home and selling it

at the market.  He always said,

"You don't change the truth

with trickery.

Anything that is true will not

be dominated by a small trick.

Anything that

is the result of trickery

won't go more than a few years

before it is exposed."

 

My father was large in nature.

He was so strong

that he had no difficulty

walking up a flight of stairs

carrying a bag of rice

on his shoulders.

The fact that at age ninety

I'm still able

to travel around the world and

carry on my work is a result

of the physical strength I inherited

from my father.

 

My mother,

whose favorite Christian hymn

was "Higher Ground"

was also quite a strong woman.

I take after her

not only for her wide forehead

and round face

but for her straightforward and

high-spirited personality as well.

 

I have a stubborn streak, and

there is no doubt

I am my mother's child.

When I was a child, I had

the nickname "all-day crier."

I earned this nickname because

once I started to cry,

I wouldn't stop for the entire day.

When I cried, it would be so loud

that people would think

something terrible had happened.

 

(Page 24)

 

People sleeping in bed

would come outside

to see what was going on.

Also, I didn't

just cry sitting still.

I would jump around the room,

accidentally injuring myself, even

bleeding, and creating an uproar.

I had this kind of

intense personality even when

I was young.

Once my mind was made up,

I would never back down,

not even if it meant

breaking a bone in my body.

Of course, this was all before

I became mature.

When my mother would scold me

for doing something wrong,

I would talk back to her saying,

"No. Absolutely not!"

All I had to do

was admit that I was wrong, but

I would rather have died than

let those words out of my mouth.

 

My mother, though, had quite

a strong personality as well.

She would strike me, and say,

"You think you can get away with

not answering your parent?"

Once, she struck me so hard

she knocked me down.

Even after I got up,

I wouldn't give in to her.

She just stood in front of me,

crying loudly.  Even then,

I wouldn't admit that I was wrong.

 

My competitive spirit

was as strong as my stubborness.

I couldn't stand to lose

in any situation.

The adults in the village

would say,

"Osan's Little Tiny Eyes,

once he decides to do something,

he does it."

 

I don't remember how old I was

when this happened:

A boy gave me a bloody nose

and ran away. 

For a month after that

I would go to his house every day

and stand there,

waiting for him to come out.

The village adults were amazed

to see me persist until finally

the parents apologized to me.

They even gave me a container

full of rice cakes.

This doesn't mean

I was always trying to win

with stubborn persistence.

I also was physically much larger

and stronger

than other children my age.

No child

could beat me in arm wrestling.

 

(Page 25)

 

I once lost a wrestling match

to a boy

three years older than I was,

and it made me so angry that

I couldn't sit still.

I went to a nearby mountain,

stripped some bark from an acacia tree,

and for the next six months I worked out

on this tree every evening to become

strong enough to defeat that child.

At the end of six months,

I challenged him to a rematch

and managed to beat him.

 

Each generation in our family

has had many children.  I had one

older brother, three older sisters,

and three younger sisters. 

I actually

had four other siblings who

were born after Hyo Seon,

the youngest sister,

but they died at an early age.

All in all my mother

gave birth to thirteen children,

but five did not survive.

Her heart

must have been deeply tormented.

Mother suffered a great deal

to raise so many children

in circumstances that were

by no means plentiful.

As a child I had many siblings.

If these siblings got together

with our first and second cousins,

we could do anything. 

Much time has passed, however,

and now I feel as though I am

the only one remaining in the world.

 

I once visited North Korea

for a short while, in 1991.  I went

to my hometown for the first time

in forty-eight years

and found that my mother and most of

my siblings had passed away.

Only one older sister and

one younger sister remained.

My older sister,

who had been like a mother to me

when I was a child,

had become a grandmother

of more than seventy years.

My younger sister

was older than sixty, and her face

was covered with wrinkles.

 

When we were young,

I teased my younger sister a lot.

I would shout, "Hey, Hyo Seon,

you're going to marry

a guy with one eye."

And she would come back with,

"What did you say?

What makes you think you know that,

Brother?"  Then she would run up

behind me and tap me on the back

with her tiny fists.

 

(Page 26)

 

 In the year she turned eighteen,

Hyo Seon met a man with whom

one of our aunts was trying

to arrange her marriage.

That morning she got up early,

carefully combed her hair, and

powdered her face.

She thoroughly cleaned our home

inside and out and waited

for her prospective groom to arrive.

"Hyo Seon," I teased her, "you must

really want to get married."

This made her blush, and I still

remember how beautiful she looked

with the redness in her face

showing through the white powder.

 

It has been almost twenty years

since my visit to North Korea.

My older sister, who

wept so sorrowfully to see me,

has since passed away, leaving

just my younger sister.

It fills me with such anguish.

I feel as though

my heart may melt away.

 

I was good with my hands, and

I used to make clothes for myself.

When it got cold, I would quickly

knit myself a cap to wear.  I was

better at it than the women were,

and I would give knitting tips

to my older sisters.

I once

knitted a muffler for Hyo Seon.

 

My hands were as big and thick

as a bear's paws,

but I enjoyed needlework, and

I would even make my own underwear.

I would take some cloth off a roll,

fold it in half,

cut it to the right design,

hem it, sew it up, and put it on.

When I made a pair

of traditional Korean socks

for my mother this way, she

expressed how much she liked them

by saying, "Well, well,

I thought Second Son

was just fooling around, but

these fit me perfectly."

 

In those days it was necessary

to weave cotton cloth

as a part of preparations for

the marriage of a son or daughter.

Mother would take cotton wool

and place it on a spinning wheel

to make the thread. 

This was called toggaengi

in the dialect of Pyongan Province.

 

(Page 27)

 

She would set the width on the loom

at twenty threads and make

twelve pieces of cotton cloth,

thirteen pieces of cotton cloth,

and so on.

Each time a child would marry,

cotton cloth as soft and beautiful

as processed satin would be created

through Mother's coarse hands.

Her hands were incredibly quick.

Others might weave three or four

pieces of toggaengi fabric in a day,

but Mother

could weave as many as twenty. 

When she was in a hurry

to complete the marriage preparations

for one of my older sisters,

she could weave an entire roll

of fabric in a day.

Mother had an impatient personality.

Whenever she would set her mind

to doing something, she would

work quickly to get it done.

I take after her in that way.

 

Since childhood,

I have always enjoyed

eating a wide variety of foods. 

As a child, I enjoyed eating corn,

raw cucumber, raw potato,

and raw beans.

On a visit to my maternal relatives

who lived about eight kilometers

(five miles) away from our home,

I noticed something round

growing in the field. 

I asked what it was and was told

it was jigwa or sweet potato.

Someone dug one up

and cooked it in steam for me,

so I ate it. 

It had such a delectable taste

that I took

a whole basketful of them

and ate them all myself. 

From the following year,

I coudn't keep myself away from

my maternal relatives' home

for more than three days.

I would shout out, "Mother,

I'm going out for a while," run

the whole distance

to where they lived, and

eat sweet potatoes.

 

Where we lived, we had

what we called "potato pass,"

or shortage, in May.  We would

survive the winter on potatoes,

until spring came and

we could start harvesting barley.

May was a critical period, because

if our store of potatoes was

depleted before the barley

could be harvested,

people began to starve.

Surviving the time

when potato stores were running low

and the barley had not

yet been harvested was similar

to climbing a deep mountain pass,

so we called it potato pass.

 

(Page 28)

 

The barley we ate then was not

the tasty, flat-grained barley

that we see today. 

The grains were hard and

more cylindrical in shape, but

that was all right with us. 

We would soak the barley

in water for about two days

before cooking it. 

When we sat down to eat,

I would press down on the barley

with my spoon,

trying to make it stick together. 

It was no use, though, because

when I scooped it up in my spoon,

it would

just scatter like so much sand. 

I would mix it

with gochujang (red pepper paste)

and take a mouthful.  As I chewed,

the grains of barley would keep

coming out between my teeth,

so I had to

keep my mouth tightly closed.

 

We also used to

catch and eat tree frogs.

In those days in rural areas,

children would be fed tree frogs

when they caught the measles

and their faces became thin

from the weight loss.

We would catch three or four

of these frogs that were big and had

plenty of flesh on their fat legs.

We would roast them

wrapped in squash leaves, and

they would be very tender and tasty,

just as though they had been steamed

in a rice cooker.  Speaking of tasty,

I can't leave out

sparrow and pheasant meat, either.

We would cook the lovely colored eggs

of mountain birds and the waterfowl

that would fly over the fields

making a loud, gulping call.

As I roamed the hills and fields,

this is how I came to understand

that there was an abundance of food

in the natural environment

given to us by God.

 

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE)

 'Loving Nature

To Learn From It'

 

(Page 29)

 

My personality was such that

I had to know

about everything that I could see.

I couldn't just pass over something

superficially.

I would start thinking, "I wonder

what the name of that mountain is.

I wonder what's up there."

I had to go see for myself.

While still a child, I climbed

to the tops of all the mountains

that were in a five-mile radius

of our home.

I went everywhere,

even beyond the mountains.

That way, when I saw a mountain

shining in the morning sunlight,

I could have an image in my mind

of what was on that mountain and

I could gaze at it and feel comfort.

I hated even to look at places

I didn't know.  I had to know about

everything I could see, and even

what was beyond. Otherwise,

my mind was so restless that

I couldn't endure it.

When I went to the mountains,

I would touch

all the flowers and trees.

I wasn't satisfied just

to look at things with my eyes,

I had to

touch the flowers, smell them,

and even put them

in my mouth and chew on them.

I enjoyed the fragrances, the touch,

and the tastes so much that

I wouldn't have minded if someone

had told me

to stick my nose in the brush

and keep it there the whole day.

I loved nature so much that

anytime I went outside,

I would spend the day

roaming the hills and fields and

forgot about having to go home.

 

(Page 30)

 

When my older sisters

would go into the hills to gather

wild vegetables,

I would lead the way up the hill

and pick the plants.

Thanks to this experience,

I know a lot about many kinds

of wild vegetables that taste good

and are high in nutrition.

It's important

to get the correct rhythm to enjoy

the wonderful flavor of sseumbagwi

(a wildflower plant enjoyed by Koreans

for their roots and leaves).

You could mix it with red bean paste

and put it

in a bowl of 'gochujang bibimbap'

and it would have a wonderful flavor.

When you eat sseumbagwi,

you need to put it in your mouth and

hold your breath for several seconds.

This is the time it takes

for the bitter taste to go away and

for a different taste to come out.

 

I used to

enjoy climbing trees as well.

Mainly I climbed up and down a huge,

two-hundred-year-old chestnut tree

that was in our yard.

I like the view

from the upper branches of that tree.

I could see even

beyond the entrance to the village.

Once I was up there,

I wouldn't want to come down.

Sometimes, I would be up in the tree

until late at night,

and the youngest of my older sisters

would come out of the house and

make a fuss

over how dangerous it was

and try to get me to come down.

 

Yong Myung, please come down,"

she would say.  "It's late, and

you need to come in and go to bed."

 

"If I get sleepy,

I can sleep up here."

 

It didn't matter what she said;

I wouldn't budge from my branch

in the chestnut tree.

Finally, she would lose her temper

and shout at me,

"Hey, monkey! Get down here now!"

 

Maybe it's because I was

born in the Year of the Monkey that

I enjoyed climbing trees so much.

When chestnut burrs

hung in clusters from the branches,

I would take a broken branch and

jump up and down to knock them down.

I remember this being a lot of fun.

I feel sorry for children these days

who don't grow up in the countryside

and don't experience this kind

of enjoyment.

 

(Page 31)

 

The birds flying free in the sky

were also objects of my curiosity.

Once in a while

some particularly pretty birds

would come by, and I would study

everything I could about them,

noticing what the male looked like

and what the female looked like.

There were no books back then

to tell me about the various kinds

of trees, shrubs, and birds, so

I had to examine each myself.

Often I would miss my meals because

I would be

hiking around the mountains looking

for the places

where migratory birds went.

 

Once I climbed up and down a tree

every morning and evening

for several days

to check on a magpie nest.

I wanted to see

how a magpie lays its eggs.

I finally got to witness the magpie

lay its eggs, and I became

friends with the bird as well.

The first few times it saw me,

the magpie let out a loud squawk and

made a big fuss

when it saw me approach.

Later, though, I could get close

and it would remain still.

 

The insects in that area

were also my friends.

Every year, in late summer,

a clear-toned cicada would sing

in the upper branches

of a persimmon tree

that was right outside my room.

Each summer I would be grateful

when the loud, irritating sound

of the other types of cicada

that made noise all summer

would suddenly stop

and be replaced by the song

of the clear-toned cicada.

Its song let me know

that the humid summer season

would soon pass,

with the cool autumn to follow.

 

Their sound

went something like this:

"sulu ulululululu!"

Whenever

I would hear the clear-toned

cicada sing like this,

I would look up

into the persimmon tree and think,

"Of course,

as long as it's going to sing,

it has to sing from a high place

so that everyone in the village

can hear it and be glad.

Who could hear it if

it went into a pit and sang?"

 

(Page 32)

 

I soon realized that both

the summer cicadas and

the clear-toned cicadas

were making sounds for love.

Whether they were singing,

"mem mem mem" or "sulu sulu,"

they were making sounds

in order to attract their mates.

Once I realized this, I couldn't

help but laugh every time

I heard an insect start singing.

"Oh, you want love, don't you?

Go ahead and sing, and

find yourself a good mate."

Gradually

I learned how to be friends

with everything in nature in a way

that we could share our hearts

with each other.

 

The Yellow Sea coast

was only about four kilometers

(two and a half miles)

from our home.  It was near enough

that I could easily see it

from any high place near our home.

There was a series of water pools

along the path to the sea,

and a creek flowed between them.

I would often

dig around one of those pools

smelling of stale water

to catch eel

and fresh water mud crab.

I would poke around in all sorts

of places to catch different kinds

of water life, so I came to know

where each kind lived.

Eels by nature

do not like to be visible, so

they hide their long bodies

in crab holes

and other similar places.

Often, though, they can't quite

fit all their bodies in the holes,

so the ends of their tails

remain sticking out.

I could easily catch them simply

by grabbing the tail and

pulling the eel out of its hole.

If we had company in our home

and they wanted to eat steamed eel,

then it was nothing for me to run

the three miles round trip

to the water pools

and bring back about five eels.

During summer vacations, I would

often catch more than forty

eels in a day.

 

But there was

one chore I didn't like doing.

This was to feed the cow.

Often, when my father would tell me

to feed the cow, I would take it

to the meadow

of the neighboring village, where

I would tie it up and run away.

But after a while I would start

to worry about the cow.

When I looked back, I could see

it was still there,

right where I had tied it.

 

(Page 33)

 

It just stayed there half the day,

mooing and waiting for someone

to come feed it.

Hearing the cow mooing

in the distance, I would feel

sorry for it and think, "That cow.

What am I going to do with it?"

Maybe you can imagine how I felt

to ignore the cow's mooing

Still, when I would go back to it

late in the evening,

it wouldn't be angry or try

to gore me with it's horns.

Instead it seemed happy to see me.

This made me realize that

a person's perspective

on a major objective in life

should be like that of a cow.

Bide your time with patience, and

something good will come to you.

 

There was a dog in our home that

I loved very much. It was so smart

that when it came time

for me to come home from school,

it would run to meet me when I was

still a long distance from home.

Whenever it saw me, it acted happy.

I would always

pet it with my right hand.

So, even if it happened to be

on my left side, it would

go around to my right side and

rub its face against me,

begging to be petted.

Then I would take my right hand

and pet it on its head and back.

If I didn't the dog would whine

and run circles around me

as I walked down the road.

"You rascal," I would say,

"You know about love, don't you?

Do you like love?"

 

Animals know about love.

Have you ever seen

a mother hen sitting on her eggs

until they hatch?  The hen

will keep her eyes open and

stamp her foot on the ground

so no one can go near her?

I would go in and out

of the chicken coop, knowing

it would make the hen angry.

When I would go into the coop,

the hen would straighten her neck

and try to threaten me.

Instead of backing away, I would also

act in a threatening manner

toward the hen.

After I went into the coop

a few times, the hen

would just pretend not to see me.

But she would keep herself

bristled up and her claws long

and sharp.  She looked like

she wanted to swoosh over and

attack me, but she couldn't move

because of the eggs.

So she just sat there in anguish.

I would go near

and touch her feathers but

she wouldn't budge.

 

(Page 34)

 

It seemed that she was determined

not to move from that spot

until her eggs had hatched, even

if it meant letting someone pluck

all the feathers from her bosom.

Because she is so steadfastly

attached to her eggs through love,

the hen has an authority

that keeps even the rooster

from doing whatever he wants.

The hen commands complete authority

over everything under heaven,

as if to say,

"I don't care who you are.

You had better

not disturb these eggs!"

 

There is also

a demonstration of love

when a pig gives birth to puglets.

I followed a mother pig around

so I could watch it

give birth to its litter.

At the moment of birth,

the mother pig gives a push

with a loud grunt and

a piglet slips out onto the ground.

The pig lets out another loud grunt

and a second piglet comes out.

It is similar with cats and dogs.

It made me very happy

to see these little baby animals

that hadn't even opened their eyes

come into the world.

I couldn't help but laugh with joy.

 

On the other hand,

it gave me much anguish

to witness the death of an animal.

There was a slaughterhouse

a little ways from the village.

Once a cow

was inside the slaughterhouse,

a butcher would appear

out of nowhere and strike the cow

with an iron hammer about the size

of a person's forearm.

The cow would fall over.

In the next moment,

it would be stripped of its hide

and its legs would be cut off.

Life hangs on so desperately that

the stumps remaining on the cow

after its legs were cut off

would continue to quiver.

It brought tears to my eyes

to watch this

and I cried out loud.

 

From when I was a child

I have had a certain peculiarity. 

I could know things

that others didn't, as if I had

some natural paranormal ability.

 

(Page 35)

 

If I said it was going to rain,

then it would rain.

I might

be sitting in our home and say,

"This old man Mr. So-and-So

in the next village

doesn't feel well today."

And it would always be right.

 

(Page 35)

 

From the time I was eight

I was well known

as a champion matchmaker.

I only had to see photographs

of a prospective bride and groom

and I could tell everything.

If I said, "This marriage is bad."

and they went ahead

and married anyway, they would

inevitably break up later.

I'm still doing that at age ninety,

and now

I can tell much about a person

just seeing the way he sits

or the way he laughs.

 

If I focused my thoughts,

I could tell

what my older sisters were doing

at a particular moment.  So,

although my older sisters liked me,

they also feared me.  They felt that

I knew all their secrets.

 

It may seem like I have

some incredible paranormal power,

but actually it isn't

anything to be surprised about.

Even ants, which we often think of

as insignificant creatures, can tell

when the rainy season is coming,

and they go

to where they can stay dry.

People in tune with nature

should be able

to tell what is ahead of them.

It's not such a difficult thing.

 

You can tell which way the wind

is going to go

by carefully examining

a magpie's nest.

A magpie will put the entrance

to its nest on the opposite side

from the direction where

the wind is going to blow.

It will take twigs in its beak

and weave them together

in a complex fashion,

and then pick up mud with its beak

and plaster the top and bottom

of the nest so that

the rain doesn't get in.

It arranges the ends of the twigs

so that they all

face the same direction.

Like a gutter on a roof, this makes

the rain flow toward one place.

Even magpies have such wisdom

to help them survive,

so wouldn't it be natural

for people to have

this type of ability as well?

 

(Page 36)

 

If I were at a cow market

with my father, I might say,

"Father, don't buy this cow.

A good cow should look good

on the nape of its neck

and have strong front hooves.

It should have

a firm buttocks and back.

This cow isn't like that."

Sure enough,

the cow would not sell.

My father would say,

"How do you know all this?" and

I would reply,  "I've known that

since I was in Mother's womb."

Of course, I wasn't serious.

If you love cows,

you can tell a lot about them.

 

The most powerful force

in the world is love, and

the most fearful thing

is a mind and body united.

If you quiet yourself and

focus your mind, there is a place

deep down where

the mind is able to settle.

You need to let your mind go

to that place.

When you put your mind

in that place and go to sleep,

then when you awaken,

it will be extremely sensitive.

That is the moment when

you should turn away

all extraneous thoughts

and focus your consciousness.

Then you will be able

to communicate with everything.

 

If you don't believe me,

try it right now.

Each life form in the world

seeks to connect itself with that

which gives it the most love.

So, if you have something

that you don't truly love,

then your possession or dominion

is false and you will be forced

to give it up.

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE)

Talking About The Universe

With The Insects

 

(Page 37)

 

Spending time in the forest

cleanses the mind.  The sound

of leaves rustling in the wind,

the sound of the wind blowing

through the reeds,

the sound of frogs croaking

in the ponds:  All you can hear

are the sounds of nature;  no

extraneous thoughts enter the mind.

If you empty your mind, and

receive nature

into your entire being,

there is no separation between

you and nature.  Nature comes

into you, and you become

completely one with nature.

In the moment that the boundary

between you and nature disappears,

you feel a profound sense of joy.

Then nature becomes you, and you

become nature.

 

I have always treasured

such experience in my life.

Even now,

I close my eyes and enter a state

in which I am one with nature.

Some refer to this as anatman,

or "not-self",

but to me it is more than that,

because nature

enters and settles into

the place that has been made empty.

While in that state, I listen to

the sounds that nature hands to me--

the sounds of the pine trees,

the sounds of the bugs--

and we become friends.

I could go to a village and know,

without meeting anyone,

the dispositions and the minds

of the people living there.

 

(Page 38)

 

I would go into the fields

of the village

and spend the night there,

then listen

to what the crops in the fields

would tell me.

I could see whether the crops

were sad or happy and that

would tell me the kind of people

who lived there.

The reason I could be in jail

in South Korea and

in the United States, and even

in North Korea, and

not feel lonely and isolated,

is that even in jail

I could hear the sound

of the wind blowing and

talk to the bugs

that were there with me.

You may ask,  "What

do you talk about with bugs?"

Even the smallest grain of sand

contains the Principles

of the world, and even a spec

of dust floating in the air

contains

the harmony of the universe.

Everything around us

was given birth through

a combination of forces so complex

we cannot even imagine it.

These forces

are closely related to each other.

Nothing in the universe

was conceived

outside of the Heart of God.

The movement of just one leaf

holds within it

the breathing of the universe.

From childhood, I have had a gift

of being able to resonate with

the sounds of nature as I roam

around the hills and meadows.

Nature creates a single harmony

and produces a sound that

is magnificent and beautiful.

No one tries to show off and

no one is ignored;

there is just a supreme harmony.

Whenever

I found myself in difficulty,

nature comforted me;

whenever I collapsed in despair,

it raised me back up.

 

Children these days

are raised in urban areas

and don't have opportunities

to become familiar with nature, but

developing sensitivity to nature

is even more important

than developing our knowledge.

What is the purpose of

providing a university education

to a child who

cannot feel nature in his bosom

and whose sensitivities are dull?

The person separated from nature

can gather book knowledge

here and there and then easily

become a materialistic person

who worships material goods.

 

(Page 39)

 

We need to feel

the difference between the sound

of spring rain falling like

a soft whisper and that of

autumn rain falling

with pops and crackles.

It is only the person who

enjoys resonance with nature who

can be said

to have a true character.

A dandelion

blooming by the side of the road

is more precious

than all the gold in the world.

 

We need to have a heart that knows

how to love nature and people.

Anyone who cannot

love nature and love people

is not capable of loving God.

Everything in creation embodies God

at the level of symbol, and

human beings are substantial beings

created in the image of God.

Only a peron who can love nature

can love God.

 

I did not spend all my time

roaming the hills and playing.

I also worked hard helping

my older brother run the farm.

On a farm there are many tasks that

must be done

during a particular season.

The rice paddies and fields

need to be plowed.

Rice seedlings

need to be transplanted, and

weeds need to be pulled.

When one is pulling weeds,

the most difficult task

is to weed a field of millet.

After the seeds are planted,

the furrows need to be weeded

at least three times, and

this is backbreaking work.

When we were finished,

we couldn't straighten our backs

for a while.

 

Sweet potatoes

don't taste very good

if they are planted in clay.

They need

to be planted in a mixture

of one third clay and

two thirds sand

if they are going to produce

the best tasting sweet potatoes.

For corn, human excrement was

the best fertilizer, so I would

take my hands and break up

all the solid excrement

into small pieces.

By helping out on the farm,

I learned what was needed

to make beans grow well,

what kind of soil

was best for soybeans, and

what soil was best for red beans.

I am a farmer's farmer.

 

Pyonggan Province was among

the first places in Korea

to accept Christian culture.

 

(Page 40)

 

One noticeable influence was that

the farmland was already arranged

in straight lines

in the 1930's and 1940's.

To transplant rice seedlings,

we would take a pole

with twelve

equally spaced markings

to indicate

where the rows would go

and lay it across the width

of the paddy.

Then two people would move

along the pole, each

planting six rows of seedlings.

Later, when I came

to the southern part of Korea,

I saw that

they would put a string

across the paddy

and have dozens of people

splashing around in there.

It seemed like a very

inefficient way of doing it.

I would spread my legs to twice

the width of my shoulders

so I could plant the seedlings

more quickly.

During the rice planting season,

I was able to earn enough money

to at least cover my own tuition.

 

 

(CHAPTER ONE) 

Ardent Student

 

(Page 41)

 

When I turned ten,

my father had me attend a school

in my village, where an old man

taught Chinese classics.

At this school, all we had to do

was memorize one booklet each day.

I would focus myself

and complete the memorization

in half an hour.

If I could stand

in front of the schoolmaster and

recite that day's lesson, then

I was finished for the day.

If the schoolmaster dozed off

during the early afternoon,

I would leave the school and

go into the hills and meadows.

The more

time I spent in the hills,

the more I knew

where to find edible plants.

Eventually, I was eating enough

of these plants

that I could go without lunch

and stopped eating lunch at home.

 

At school we read

the Analects of Confuscious and

the words of Mencius, and we were

taught Chinese characters.

I excelled at writing, and

by the time I was twelve

the schooldmaster had me

making the model characters

that the other students

would learn from.

Actually, I wanted

to attend a formal school, not

the traditonal village school.

I felt I shouldn't be just

memorizing Confucius and Mencius

when others

were bulding airplanes.

This was April, and my father

had already paid my full year's

tuition in advance.

Even though I knew this,

I decided

to quit the village school

and worked to convince my father

to send me to a formal school.

 

(Page 42)

 

I worked on

convincing my grandfather and

even my uncle.

To transfer

into elementary school,

I had to take an exam.

To study for this exam, I had to

attend a preparatory school.

I convinced

one of my younger cousins

to go with me, and we both

entered the Wongbong,

a private school to help us

prepare for the exam to transfer

into elementary school.

 

The next year,

when I was fourteen,

I passed the exam and transferred

into the third grade at Osan School.

I had a late start, but

I studied hard and was able

to skip the fifth grade.

Osan School was eight kilometers

(five miles) from our home, but

I never missed a day, or was ever

late for school.

Each time I would climb a hill

in the road, a group of students

would be waiting for me.

I would walk so quickly though,

that they would have a hard time

keeping up.

This is how I traveled

that mountain road that

was rumored to be a place

that tigers sometimes appeared.

 

The Osan School

was a nationalist school

established by Yi Sung Hun,

who was active

in the independence movement.

Not only

was the Japanese language

not taught,

but students were actually

forbidden to speak Japanese.

I had

a different opinion on this.

I felt that

we had to know our enemy if

we were to defeat it.

I took another transfer exam and

entered the fourth grade

of the Jeongju

Public Normal School.

In public schools, all classes

were conducted in Japanese, so

I memorized katakana and hiragana

the night before

my first day of class.

(Katakana and hiragana are

the two different scripts used

for writing the Japanese language)

I didn't know any Japanese, so

I took all the textbooks

from grades one through four

and memorized them

over the course of two weeks.

This enabled me to start

understanding the language.

 

By the time

I graduated from grammar school,

I was fluent in Japanese.

On the day of my graduation,

I volunteered to give a speech

before a gathering

of all the important people

in Jeongju.

 

(Page 43)

 

Normally

in that situation the student

is expected to speak

about his gratitude for the support

received from his teachers

and the school.  Instead, I referred

to each of my teachers by name

and critiqued them,

pointing out problems in the way

the school was run.

I also spoke on our time in history

and the kind of determination that

people in responsible positions

should make.

I gave this rather critical speech

entirely in Japanese.

 

"Japanese people

should pack their bags

as soon as possible and go back

to Japan," I said.

"This land was handed down to us

by our ancesters, and

all the future generations

of our people must live here."

 

I said these things

in front of the chief of police,

the county chief, and the town mayor.

I was taking after the spirit

of great uncle Yoon-Guk Moon and

saying things that

no one else dared say.

The audience was shocked.

When I left the stage, I could see

people's faces had turned pale.

 

Nothing happened to me that day, but

there were problems later on.

From that day, the Japanese police

marked me

as a person to be tracked and

began watching me,

making a nusance of themselves.

Later, when

I was trying to go to Japan

to continue my studies,

the chief of police refused

to place his stamp

on a form that I needed, and

this caused me some trouble.

He regarded me

as a dangerous person who should not

be allowed to travel to Japan and

refused to stamp the form for me.

I had a big argument with him and

finally convinced him

to put his stamp on the form.

Only then could I go to Japan.

 

 

(end of Chapter One)

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