From the Chairman
Cover Story
Summit Meeting
Visitor's View
National Day
From the Chairman
Prof. Toynbee and Hyo (孝 Filial Piety)
We Koreans have a saying, "Hyo ("孝" filial piety) is the basic virtue of a human being." Hyo begins with the teaching that "Everything from hair to skin in one's body has been gifted by one's parents, and therefore should be preserved with no part damaged." It then ends in that "one should lead an honorable and successful life to glorify the name of one's parents."
Therefore, the basic philosophy of hyo is for one to live a healthy and honorable life. A stream of this philosophy flows like a subterranean stream at the bottom of every Korean's heart. All and scrupulously considered, the philosophy of hyo appears to be the very truth of all things.
In the long history of mankind, there has been not a single instance in which a human being, however great and superhuman he or she was, could create any organ of own body, whether it be hair or a finger tip. One's body in whole, therefore, is a great gift presented by his or her parents. If so, "What am I?" Each of us is no more than a mere caretaker of this great gift.
From the religious points of view, many diversified accounts could be given, but practically considered that we are supposed to follow the teachings of parents faithfully and have the responsibility of carefully maintaining this "great gift".
Naturally, we have to be grateful all the time for our parents who have given us this "great gift". As age advances, this writer is getting more thankful for the parents who gave me this "great gift" as well as for the forefathers and the fatherland.
At the invitation of the U.K. government in 1973, this writer had the opportunity of visiting London and met Prof. Arnold Toynbee. During the meeting, I had the honor of introducing to Prof. Toynbee, the world-renowned historian and the 20th century's representative intellectual authority, a brief summary of Korea's hyo teachings.
I was extremely interested to find out how this great scholar would react to Korea's hyo teachings in practice, particularly the Korean custom of respecting the aged and honoring family traditions such as families of three generations living together in one house.
With tears in his eyes, the 86-year-old professor kindly commented: "Dr. Limb, the Korean teachings of hyo, their practice of respecting the old and the traditional family system are one of the finest among existing thoughts in the world. Please not only preserve the philosophy in your own country alone, but start a campaign to propagate it in the west. I will actively support such a drive."
Unfortunately, Prof. Toynbee passed away two years later in 1975. Since then, some thirty years have passed. The Korean society is now witnessing some of its beautiful traditions being wrecked in some respects. The graceful hyo teachings, too, seem to be no exception and in danger of being impaired. Deplorable is this derogative trend. How affluent a society we attain in terms of material wealth, a "happy society" which we seek could not be realized unless such a society survives spiritually.
Before it gets too late, the leaders of various fields in this country are invited to initiate a vigorous nationwide drive to revive the virtue of our indigenous filial piety and preserve timehonored national traditions that supported the Korean family system.
Furthermore, I appeal to the national leaders of foreign countries to wage a drive to spread the Korean thought of hyo, filial piety, across their boundaries so that it could contribute to peace among all mankind.
by Dr. Thok-kyu Limb