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Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Essay-4

07-24-2008 17:46

Reading Is Window to History

By Chung In-sung

In the Joseon Dynasty, Shin Heum, a scholar and politician, sang lyrics that went like this:

If I close the door, I read a book I like most.

If I open the door, I meet a guest I've waited for a long time.

If I go out of the door, I travel to a beautiful mountain and a river I want to.

About 10 years ago, I read the novel, ``Ieyasu Tokugawa," written by a famous Japanese novelist. It was so impressive that once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down, and I stayed up late for a few nights straight.

The writer realistically described the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598). I was so amazed at Admiral Yi Sun-sin's heroics. He was depicted in detail as a war hero who defeated the Japanese navy with modernized weapons in the book, which also excellently described the cause and effect of the war between Korea and Japan.

What impressed me most was Japan's reform process from feudal society to modern civilization through the help of Western countries, such as Portugal, England, the Netherlands and America. After reading this book, I've tried to learn more about Japanese culture.

One day I happened to visit the British Museum on the Internet. I was really shocked to find only Chinese culture and Japanese culture in the ``Asian Culture" part. I couldn't find any Korean culture there. Eventually, I managed to find something about Korean culture under another ``Asian culture" category. It included various Asian countries' cultures, including those of Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines as well as Korea.

Why were Asian cultures classified into these two different groups? I've wondered about how I should solve this problem for a long time, but I did not discover the solution until recently. I read that the ancient Korean Peninsula played a role in transmitting Chinese culture to Japan. If it is true, only Chinese culture should exist in Asia. Of course, I don't deny the truth that Korean and Japanese cultures bloomed for several centuries after the influence of Chinese culture. I began to wonder whether or not the Korean that I had learned in my schooldays was true.

Recently I had the opportunity to read the book, ``The Clash of Civilizations'' by Samuel Huntington, a futurologist and professor of Harvard University. He introduced the world's civilizations as follows: Spangler specifies eight major cultures; McNeill discusses nine civilizations; Bagby also sees nine major civilizations or 11, if including Japan and Orthodoxy; Braudel identifies nine and Rostovanyi seven.
Despite these differences, many historians agree that 12 civilizations existed, seven of which no longer exist (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Cretan, classical, Byzantine, Middle American, Andean). Nowadays, only five civilizations exist; Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Islamic and Western. Most historians recognize Japan as a distinct civilization, an offspring of Chinese civilization, emerging between 100 and 400 A.D.

The historical sense I've known from my boyhood is that Korean culture was the messenger who handed over Chinese culture to Japan. I can't help asking myself this question: Is my common sense on Korean history not true? Why on Earth did my teachers inoculate me with incorrect historical information about Asian culture during my school days? For what reason do many Korean historians keep silent on the shocking truth that Japanese culture is something completely isolated from Chinese culture? I don't know the reason why Korea's mainstream mass media has not dealt with this historical problem until now.

One spring day during my high-school days, we went on a field trip. Two hour's walking led us to our destination, the Maitreya Pagoda in Iksan, North Jeolla Province, where there are the ruins of a stone image of Buddha and temples built in the Baekje Dynasty period. I looked around the magnificent, enormous pagoda, supported by more than two meters of sculpted granite.

I was surprised by what I saw at back of the Pagoda. If someone didn't repair the pagoda immediately, it looked like it would fall to the ground. A chill ran down my spine at that moment. Unfortunately, someone had made the pagoda very unsightly with a concrete mould to stop it falling down. Nobody took care of the old pagoda, standing in the cultivated rice paddies.

After becoming a teacher, I heard that one Japanese historian visited the pagoda during the colonial times. He was so shocked when he saw its magnificence for the first time. He saw that the pagoda was similar to that of a Japanese national treasure. He too felt that the grand pagoda might fall down at any moment if he didn't repair it right then and there. He hired some workers to fix it and cemented the thick and ugly molding on it.
If I have free time to study history, I would like to look at the misconception of Japanese culture, pondering my lack of historical understanding. Reading was a window to opening new eyes on history.

The writer is a teacher at Sanne Middle School in Namwon, North Jeolla Province. He can be reached at flesung@yahoo.co.kr.

My Essay-3

05-07-2008 16:09

Preparing Safe Food for the Table


By Chung In-sung

In the Chinese classics, one scholar said to his students, ``We human beings have three likings through our whole life. One is enjoying food; the second is making good friends; and the third is reading books.''

Ten years ago, I happened to travel to Malaysia by myself to meet my pen friend living in Penang. He was a real believer in Buddhism and a vegetarian as well.

He showed me a every well-known corner of the country. On the way back to the hotel, after visiting the ``Butterfly Museum,'' we saw some wild roosters and hens near a garden.

I asked him who takes care of the hens and chickens. He said, ``They don't belong to anybody.'' They were living in nature, without stress. I was surprised at this.

Nowadays we can't enjoy such fresh, safe food as we used to do. We can't help but worry about whether we are preparing safe food for the table and our family.

We must think about ways to ensure safe food ― organic farming; civic groups and mass media monitoring of the raising of livestock; government guidelines and financial support for safe food through organic farming.

First, it is very important for us to have an interest in organic grain, vegetables and meat. Recently all elementary and middle schools began serving their students lunch every day.

Parents and teachers worry about whether the food they are serving is safe and not contaminated. Some parents attend food-testing events for their children's health and periodically check out the food.

Others ask schools to use locally grown organic grain and vegetables. Food is a vital source for life and it keeps our bodies healthy.

Moreover, nations can't live the happy and healthy lives necessary to keep a society happy. Parents ask the local government and the board of education to increase food spending incessantly.

Second, we have to get civic groups and the mass media to monitor the raising of livestock. A civic group seeking to protect consumers' rights announced surprising news that beef produced here included twice as many antibiotics as that of Japan.

The overuse of antibiotics can have side-effects on the body's resistance to certain diseases. It is a serious problem that we need to solve immediately. We must have the right to enjoy safe beef and pork.

Thanks to a monitoring system, if farmers try to raise cows and pigs so that they can freely move and run, being fed natural hay and grain in a large space, we'll be able to enjoy good safe beef and pork in the near future. But such livestock farming needs a great amount of money.

Third, we have to encourage the government to support farmers producing organic grain, vegetables and livestock. Sometimes we hear shocking news on contaminated food, such as food with chemicals, antibiotics, or even beef and pork infected with cholera.

We hear some vegetables such as beans and potatoes produced in America are genetically modified organisms. We have to take further steps to protect ourselves from potential risks from these crops.

Especially the government must set stricter safety guidelines and increase financial support for organic farming to produce fresh and safe food.

In conclusion, nations must try to make available good and safe food to keep our families healthy. To achieve this goal, civic groups and the mass media should visit livestock farms periodically and check them scientifically.

Farmers should do their best to raise healthy cows and pigs in wide pens, being fed with grain and grass cultivated by organic methods. The government must use a carrot and stick approach to ensure food safety.

The writer is a trainee at the Intensive English Teachers Training Program at the Korea National University of Education in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. His email address is flesung@yahoo.co.kr

My Essay-2

07-04-2008 17:27

Mr. Chicken as English Teacher



By Chung In-sung

Between the 1980s and '90s, every Korean had three personal goals: acquiring a driver's license, buying a car and getting their own place to live through saving money and living frugally.

Many people rushed to driving school to learn how to drive after work or early in the morning. In those days, acquiring a driver's license was a big thing for ordinary citizens. When he or she achieved their second goal ― to have a car, they wore the car key on their waist belt like a triumphant general just returned from battle. When each driver made their debut on the street, we all remembered that they pasted a little comic rectangle-shaped poster on the rear window of a car.

The picture was a small chicken painted dark yellow, which introduced him or herself, Mr. or Miss Chicken, to other skilled drivers. The moment all drivers looked at it, they easily understood when the driver acquired their license.

The chick means novice. Of course, no one complained about these chick drivers, even though they were the cause of traffic jams during rush hour. All drivers gave way to them and prayed for them to be a skilled driver. I would like to introduce my two Mr. Chicken anecdotes as an English teacher.

At first, I graduated from Jeonju Teachers' College in 1969. I became an elementary school teacher in a mountainous village. In those days General Park Chung-hee took power through a military coup d'etat in 1960. General Park tried to attain economic growth to root out the nations' poverty. He led Korea to economic growth through three five-year economic development plans. His efforts resulted in ``the miracle on the River Han."

Also, he was interested in educational development. He built a middle school in each ``myeon" (the smallest administrative unit). Suddenly the Education Ministry had to choose many teachers majoring in all subjects to teach in middle schools all over the country. The ministry decided to give a teacher's qualification certificate to all who graduated from a four-year college through a six months' reeducation training program but it couldn't mobilize sufficient secondary school teachers with such a temporary measure. They decided to get good teachers through a qualification examination for secondary schools. I finally passed the difficult exam to become a secondary school teacher in 1975 after two failures.

In two years, I became a Mr. Chicken as an English teacher in a K High School in Gyeonggi Province. I couldn't forget the first time I faced my students. I was very embarrassed and frustrated at students' eye contact. All my students laughed whenever I introduced myself and explained something grammatical in Korean. The reason was that I spoke in a Jeolla Province dialect. There are several kinds of dialects for each province. Perhaps I used only a perfect Jeolla Province dialect in class. I tried to alter my pronunciation into Korean standard language, language spoken by Seoulites, so that my students wouldn't laugh at me any more.

In 1980, Mr. Chicken attended an English teachers' in-service training program with native speakers of English sponsored by the provincial board of education. The instructors were members of the Peace Corps who were very kind and warmhearted. For 11 days I tried to develop my English speaking ability with native speakers every day, through discussion, playing games and singing songs.

After the teacher's training program, I returned to school. I taught English to my students for the first time, pronouncing about 10 sentences incessantly. Students were very shocked at me when they found their teacher's different attitude and speaking ability. I began to be interested in speaking English after that. Also I began to enjoy teaching English. I loved my students very much and was filled with enthusiasm and passion in teaching. I have tried to attend English workshop and TESOL classes for English teachers whenever I have the opportunity during summer and winter vacations.

In conclusion, mastering a foreign language in a short period is a very difficult job. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German novelist, said ``He who doesn't know a foreign language is illiterate for his mother tongue." In the 21st century, speaking English fluently is a good talent and blessing for Koreans. I believe that this good talent and blessing is only possible when a learner strives to master English little by little every day like the story of ``The Rabbit and a Turtle" in Aesop's Fables.

The writer is a teacher at Sanne Middle School in Namwon, North Jeolla Province and a trainee of Intensive English Teachers Training Program of Korea National University of Education. He can be reached at flesung@yahoo.co.kr.

My Essay-1

04-09-2008 19:17


Grasp My Hand Tightly, Father!



By Chung In-sung

An old Korean saying says, ``Parents' sacrifice is higher than a mountain, and deeper than the bottom of the sea."

For a long time Korean society has regarded filial piety as the highest virtue. I would like to express my thanks to my late father for the love and sacrifice he showed me through my whole life. The word ``father" has special meaning in my inner world: he was a spiritual teacher and strict disciplinarian; a great guitarist and social drinker; a good teacher and friend. But above all it was his incessant love and sacrifice that I remember him for.

My father had a very unfortunate boyhood. At the age of fourteen he became the head of his family when my grandfather suddenly passed away and had to support his three brothers, two sisters and mother, a young, naive widow.

One day he told me about his youth. ``I was very poor and couldn't go to the school run by the Japanese. Instead I learned Chinese characters at Seodang, the old Korean school of the village, for only fourteen months.'' One day he chose to stop learning in order to devote his time to supporting his family. All day long the young boy had to work at a sand mine to excavate gold. After three years of arduous work, he realized he couldn't sufficiently support his family. He decided to travel to Manchuria (North East China) to make money in his late teens or early twenties. He spent one year there. Next was Japan, where he spent three years at risk of the dangers of mining coal deep underground.

In the Second World War, Japan surrendered. Korean, Chinese, and American soldiers were captured. One Chinese explained his situation to an American soldier dispatched to Japan as an American representative for treating war criminals. ``We Chinese were forced to dig coal deep underground and were treated like animals.'' The next day, an American helicopter dropped relief goods into the Chinese miner-camps. However, no relief supplies were dumped at the Korean camp, as nobody could speak English. My father realized that he should learn to speak English in the future.

After returning to Korea and freedom from Japan, he began a new life. He decided that he would support his sons' study of English.

I was born three years before the Korean War broke out. I was his only future. When I was five or six, I broke my right arm while playing in the rice paddies with friends. My right arm was badly swollen and I came home crying. My father took me to an herbalist. The oriental doctor treated me with acupuncture. That night I couldn't sleep at all and spent the whole night crying in terrible pain. The next day father took me to a Western clinic. The surgeon advised my father to have me undergo an operation. After surgery, my pain abated to a considerable extent. Every day I had to have the gauze dressing changed on my arm, and he walked more than two miles with me on his back. I cried loudly and protested that I did not want to go to a clinic any more, for I couldn't stand the pain during the change of dressing. My father embraced me tightly and comforted me. He said ``You will be healthy soon, my beloved son!'' and bought me candy. In those days, he was a very poor farmer finding it difficult to support his family. But I, as a child, didn't appreciate it at the time.

One early morning in 2005, I received an urgent phone call from my mother. She said, ``Your father has lost consciousness.'' He'd had two strokes, probably related to excessive alcohol-induced dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. I thought he might not recover this time. I rushed to Woosuk Hospital in my hometown. He'd completely lost his consciousness more than a week. His friends and relatives told me, ``Your father can't possibly recover.'' I was very sad. I didn't know what to do.

Two weeks passed. My brother and sisters began to agree that we carry him home to prepare for funeral. I was desperate and frustrated. It was the time for me to decide whether I would take him home or not. But I hadn't given up on his recovery even though he was in a vegetative state. I wanted him to stay at the hospital longer. I couldn't help but appeal to him with my hand on his. ``Please grasp my hand tightly, if you are listening to me, please, please…'' At first he didn't show any reaction. Again and again I appealed to him, ``Father! Father! Please squeeze my hand!'' And finally a miracle happened. He gripped my hand a little. He returned home after two months of medical treatment. Last October he passed away.

The writer is a trainee at the Intensive English Teachers Training Program at Korea National University of Education in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. His email address is flesung@yahoo.co.kr.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

사랑하는 용성중 3 학년 친구들에게

사랑하는 용성중 3학년 친구들에게,
이번 3월 1일자로 너희들과 만나게 되어 정말 기쁩니다.
이 인터넷 사이트에 모두 가입하여 1년동안 영어를 재미있게 공부할 수 있었으면 합니다
선생님은 지난해 6개월 동안 한국교원대학교 외국어 연수원에서 원어민 선생님들과 생활하면서 많은 좋은 인터넷 사이트를 알게되었습니다.
거기서 공부한 내용을 학생들과 함께 나누고 싶습니다.
우선 blogspot.com에 모두 가입하기를 권합니다.

사랑하는 산내중 학생들에게

사랑하는 산내중 학생들에게,
선생님은 지난 6개월 동안 한국교원대학교 외국어 연수원에서 원어민 선생님들과 생활을 했습니다.
그래서, 거기에서 듣고 배운 것을 우리학생들과 재미있게 나누고 싶습니다.
우선 모든 학생들이 이 blogspot.com에 모두 가입하기를 권합니다.
여기에 모두가 가입하고 매일 이 사이트를 방문해서 서러의 생각을 나눈다면 6개월 후에는 정말 많은 발전이 있으리라고 선생님은 확신합니다.
그러면 선생님을 따라서 한번 blogspot.com에 가입합시다.