Quo Vadis for Koreans
The following events took place in April of 1994.
I got an email from one of my young Korean friends saying that a country's strength should not be judged by cars, but by its "philosophy" (whatever it means). Earlier, from a Japanese TV program, I saw a Japanese historian saying it is 100 times or 1,000 times more difficult to make "kokoro" than making good cars. These two comments are consistent with with each other, and consistent with my belief. I have many things to say along this line.
- Again in April of 1994, I had a chat with one of my Japanese friends, and
he seems to know about Korea. On my blackboard, he wrote 1392 from his memory
as the year Yi dynasty started. He also wrote 1443 as the year the Hangeul
characters were promulgated, and he also wrote on the board "Un-moon"
in Chinese characters. Frankly, I could not do these even though I often
bragg about my memory power. He even said that the Mongolian army could
not cross the Korean strait because they were on Korean-made, ships which
were too weak to withstand Taiphoon. He then asked me whether Koreans
intentionally built those inferior-quality ships to destroy the Mongolian
- I told him those Korean ships had to be inferior because Korea's best wood-workers
had to work on a more important project. They were carving 80,000 wooden plates
for the Tripitaka Koreana (collection of Buddhism scriptures). I often say that
this massive workd is like Henryk Sienkiewicz's "Quo Vadis." For writing this novel,
Poland's Sienkiewicz got the 1905 Nobel prize in literature. We carved 80,000
wooden plates in order to protect our own "national identify," and Sienkiewicz
wrote Quo Vadis in order to assert that Poland is alive and well as one nation.
- Koreans and Poles have one thing in common. They both resort to God when things
There are many Christians in Korea, and the Quo Vadis is understood there as a book written for a missionary purpose. It talks about Emperor Nero persecuting Christians in Rome, but the Christians become the winners.
I also knew about the Quo Vadis in Korea before coming to the United States in 1954, but I did not know its author was a Polish Nobel winner until 1975.
Nero, and the burning of Rome.
Here are my detailed stories.
- Like Poland, Korea was invaded many times by foreign powers, and Koreans
had to live under foreign oppressions. The most recent experience was
the occupation by Japanese. We also remember the Mongolian invasion in
the 13th Century among others. Throughout those difficult times, Korean
have been able to maintain their own identity and develop their own wisdom.
The Japanese occupation did not end happily. The country became divided, and we went through three bloody years of the Korean War. Yet, Korea emerged as a thriving nation. As in the case of Poland's Sienkiewicz, Korean should be able to produce at least one Nobel prize in literature. I had this view even before 1975.
- In 1974, the National Science Foundation withdrew its financial supports
for my research program. This was a death sentence for me as a research
scientist in the United States. The Foundation gave me very civilized reasons
for terminating its support, but my understanding was quite different.
It was a reprisal to my claim that I am smarter than a pampered group of
American physicisits. You may go to my webpage
for this story.
In 1975, I was looking desperately for an outlet from this crisis. Sienkiewicz served as an inspirational figure for finding my solutions to the problem.
I received another death sentence in 1983, and I hope I could disclose its contents in the future. Based on what I do these days, you would agree that the United States has been very nice to me. I clearly understand why we had to hear about Galileo Galilei when we were in elemenatry school.
- Koreans know they get punished severely for saying things against
authorities. This appears to be the case even these days. Let us
look at the Tale of Choon-Hyang. The purpose of this story was to
indict a corrupt local governer, but it was a wrapped up with sweet love
Sienkiewicz of Poland could not attack the Russian rulers directly, but he had enough freedom to condemn Nero in his Quo Vadis. Likewise, I had to develop an indirect logic in my science writings to get my articles published in American journals. These days, I am using my internet webpage to translate those articles into the direct logic. I am also able to address those issues in my conference talks and in invited review articles.
Indeed, Sienkiewicz was one of my saviors. I was able to appreciate him thanks to my Korean background.
- Like Poland, Korea was invaded many times by foreign powers, and Koreans had to live under foreign oppressions. The most recent experience was the occupation by Japanese. We also remember the Mongolian invasion in the 13th Century among others. Throughout those difficult times, Korean have been able to maintain their own identity and develop their own wisdom.
Since my first visit to Poland in 1994, I went there many times. Here is my webpage based on my past trips to Poland. The more I learn about Poland, the more I learn about myself.
This page has been constructed and is maintained by Y.S.Kim.
How is this man