As a Peace Loving Global Citizen – Ch 1.8
When I turned ten, my father had me attend a traditional school in our 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 a half 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 in 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 I stopped eating lunch at home.
At school, we read the Analects of Confucius and the works of Mencius, and we were taught Chinese characters. I excelled at writing, and by the time I was twelve the schoolmaster had me making the model characters that other students would learn from. Actually, I wanted to attend a formal school, not the traditional village school. I felt I shouldn’t be just memorizing Confucius and Mencius when others were building 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. 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 Wonbong Preparatory School and began our studies 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 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 where 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 Jung-ju 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. 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 Jung-ju. 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 ancestors, 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 town mayor. I was taking after the spirit of Great-Uncle Yun 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 nuisance 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.
- What was driving Father to study so ardently, even studying in Japanese, his enemy’s language?
- What do you think was in Father’s heart when he volunteered to speak publicly and challenge his teachers when graduating from Jung-ju Public Normal School, a school founded by the Japanese authorities?
- How do we see the quality of living for the sake of others that Father cultivated towards his family and community begin to expand to his country through his ardent pursuit of his studies?
Whether you’re in school or not, we are all lifelong learners; we’re always preparing ourselves for a greater future. In this chapter, True Father was always preparing to understand, transcend, and shape his our environment through his own education. How are you preparing yourselves to do the same in your life and in your own cultural environment?