Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Filial Piety

May 8th, Parent's Day,
I called my mom and dad in South Korea.

Here in Chicago, 9 P.M
Over there in Mokpo, 11 A.M

I live on the other side of the earth, the opposite day and night,
Phone rings, they answer, they say it's good to hear my voice.

In this special day,
Parents get gifts, special treats, dinning out at fancy restaurants,
Even little children buy red carnations to their parents.

A month of appreciation, a day of filial piety,
The wave of melancholy sweeps over me,
Why can't I celebrate?

I think I know why.
Because I can't be with them in this special day, and I haven't seen them over three years,
And I couldn't speak up to say I love you mom and dad.. Thank you for raising me up. 

Words, sometimes, don't travel the way it should be,
My mind, hopefully, flies over the Pacific ocean, lands on my parent's heart.

 *   *   *

 This year I'm going to celebrate the 5th Mother's day of my own. My daughter and my husband are already talking about some kind of secret plan for that day. Tonight I came across to this video clip and it made me think of my own parents. Since I became a mom, I can understand better about parents, and their sacrifice for us.

Parent’s Day, or Eo-peo-i Nal (어버이 날), is May 8th in South Korea. As you can imagine, this holiday takes on a deeper meaning here in a country that has a long history of Confucianism. It has been an official holiday here since 1973, with the traditional gift giving of red carnations. Interestingly enough, I’ve heard that nowadays the modern gift giving has expanded to oriental medicine therapy and even plastic surgery gift certificates have become popular!

Filial piety, or hyodo (효도) was traditionally thought as one of the highest forms of character in Korean society. According to Confucianism, filial piety suggests five rules for life:
    1. Show the utmost respect to your parents
    2. Always take good care of your body, which is their inheritance to you
    3. Advise and guide parents wisely in case they make a mistake
    4. Contribute well to the society so as to make your parents’ name proud (another reason I think my students take a Morality/Ethics class in middle school)
    5. Keep up your devotion through ceremonies and rituals when your parents pass away.
                     Here is a snapshot from one of my Korean textbooks on filial piety:


  1. Thanks for letting us know about this day. My daughter teaches English in Seoul. I'll have to get her thoughts on how the kids view the day.

  2. Carrie - I'm hoping your daughter enjoys living and teaching in Seoul. I have handful of ESL teacher friends who taught English in Korea (some of them went back to teach,) and they loved it. Korean life style is very different, and they have found it's really interesting and exciting.