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My life was begun with learning the history of my family who experienced turbulent Korean society in the 1900s. When I was coming back home after I was born in 1985 winter as twins in a hospital in Busan, where is the second-largest city in South Korea, the first place I and my twin brother were laid was probably next to our grandparents. While replacing our busy parents, grandparents were the first teacher and resting place during my early childhood. My grandparents were born and lived in the northern part of the Korean peninsula but they had to leave their home town due to the Korean War that occurred in 1950. This tragic decision was made to keep their democratic political standpoint as well as the religious belief as a Cristian because the Communist Party that dominated North Korea oppressed the people who have these sorts of viewpoints. They finally got settled in Busan, the city where was established an interim government during the war, and they could never get back to their home town until their death. In order to remember and maintain our family’s root, my grandfather gave the name for us implying Cristian belief. My first name, Chang Sung consists of two characters involving certain meanings: (1) ‘make society prosper’ (Chang) and (2) ‘holy’ (Sung). My twin brother’s name, Chang Kyung can be interpreted as (1) ‘make society prosper’ (Chang) with (2) ‘writings’ (Kyung). The word Sung Kyung, created when connecting the last characters of our first names refers to the Holy Bible. Moreover, they had taught us almost everything about language, manners, and styles with their copious knowledge. We would listen to them while reading books and telling stories, and I would feel happy to have a conversation with them.
What I have particularly learned from my grandparents’ stories was that the consistent efforts based on a strong self-conviction could make his/her life better. After left from their home town, my grandparents had to have struggled with poverty while adapting to their new life in South Korea. After the war, my grandfather was working as a captain of a foreign trade ship. He told me that the most powerful motivation that made him overcoming the crises he encountered was the belief toward God. One day, while sailing to India, he and his colleagues had encountered pirates in the Indian Ocean and their ship was almost captured. While trembling in terror of losing his life, he started to pray alone in the captain’s cabin of the ship. What he prayed was, “God, who has protected me and my family even during the war, please allow me to have your wisdom and courage so that escape from this crisis. If you protect me as always, I will dedicate the rest of my life to you.” After around half-hour, one of his colleagues shouted to him, “Captain! The pirates are finally gone! The weather saved us!” Even though my grandfather was not able to notice since he was concentrated only on praying, the weather was rapidly changed to sloppy weather with lots of rain. The heavy rain, paradoxically, blocked the pirates’ approach to the ship. After this event, my grandfather always placed the Bible in the captain’s cabin.
Ultimately, this unbelievable story leads him to be more dedicated to God. When he received news of me and my twin brother’s born while sailing to Japan, he wanted to give us the name by expressing his deep gratitude toward God. The first characters of our first names, Chang, is as same as his, and Sung Kyung, a collective word when connecting the last characters of our first names refers to the Bible, as mentioned earlier. When he recollected the course of his life, he told me that the incredible success that he attained entirely originated from the lessons that he was learned from the Bible. He also wanted us to follow several teachings of Jesus Christ such as Jesus is God’s living and active word that brings life; the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven is through doing the will of God; and you’re supposed to sacrifice yourself and speak words of blessings for those you disagree with the most. Likewise, for him, the religious belief was not just a belief itself but something that made him enduring several difficulties in his life.
After my grandfather’s retirement, their house served as a central place for the local community so I watched the countless people visiting them. Why had so many people come to see them almost every day? At first, I thought that they had visited my grandparents simply because of the financial success that they secured. In fact, there were a variety of people who used to visit my grandparents, including Protestant believers, pastors, doctors, several people from the neighborhood, relatives, and even foreigners. The stories that they poured out were as diverse as the types of visitors. One day, one Buddhist believer, who was a friend of my grandfather, had visited them without any notices. Then, he abruptly persuaded my grandfather to convert from Protestantism to Buddhism after a passionate prayer. What’s more, he had also discussed his personal problems with his family matters. For hours, my grandfather had been quietly listening to and comforting him. The way I saw it, my grandfather had simply listened to him, the believer who had departed looked so relieved. My grandfather told something to us with a bright face because we were a little bit nervous after he left. “It’s okay, sweeties. You may not remember him, but he had come to see you guys many times when you were born. There must have been a bad thing that happened to him these days. He is a very good person. I have learned a lot today from him.” I had wondered why various people came to visit my grandfather although he had no position or occupation. Over time, I had realized that the people who had visited him left relieved. Although I did not fully realize at those times, my experience and memory related to my grandparents have provided me with a certain perspective that leadership is based on the influence rather than the individual’s official status, and that meaningful learning can occur through dialogue and empathy. My current academic and everyday philosophy has been formed with the reflection that learning may begin with listening well.
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