The Words of the Hong Family

To a Man of Sagacity and Foresight

Il-shik Hong
January 31, 2009

From a Congratulatory Address by Prof. Hong Il-shik, Former Korea University President

Almost twenty-five years ago, in 1985, while Rev. Moon was incarcerated at Danbury in the United States, I had occasion to meet him there. Even though he was wearing a prison uniform, rather than dwelling on his own situation or even that of his family or his church, he was discussing problems confronting the world and all humankind. I saw him exerting his mind, deeply concerning himself with the future of the Korean peninsula. I was deeply moved by that. I was very anxious about the future of the U.S. as a nation that would persecute such a righteous man. Not long before I had had such an unforgettable experience with Rev. Moon; and this was why I had quickly gone see him.

As you may know, I am a lifelong student of the Humanities and a teacher of that subject. I am one who has felt called to unceasingly reflect on and research the progress of history based on advancements in and changes to human civilization.

From the time I was in my teens during the Korean War and was forced to flee after burying the bodies of my two older brothers who had fallen under fire from North Korean soldiers, I worried as much as anyone about the ideological conflict between the camps that we called East and West. Therefore, I could do nothing less than pay close attention to how the political, financial, military and cultural situations of Korea changed under the cold war system, because Korea at that time was hostile toward and completely estranged from China despite the fact that they shared a long historical connection and a deep cultural homogeneity. Rather, Korea was almost subordinate to the U.S., a bastion of Western civilization far away across the Pacific whose relationship with Korea had a short history and with whom Korea did not share cultural homogeneity.

At that time, President Nixon had sent Secretary of State Kissinger to China to carry on secret diplomatic exchanges through the so-called ping-pong diplomacy' to build friendship between the two nations. When I became aware of this fact in the early 1970s, I foresaw that the relationship between Korea and China would soon change drastically. At that time, I was a young professor in my early forties and the head of Korea University's Institute of Korean Culture. From early on, I had believed that a most urgent task with regard to the future of Korea -- China relationship was to compile a Chinese-Korean dictionary. I was grieved over the fact that not one Chinese dictionary had been made in Korea. At present, China-related departments can be found in almost two hundred four-year universities in Korea, but at that time only Seoul National University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, and Korea University had them. In order to teach their students, professors had to improvise limited vocabulary books based on Chinese -- Japanese dictionaries compiled in Japan.

I hurried to bring together all the Chinese-language professors and graduate school students in Korea and established a Chinese-Korean dictionary compilation office and began the work of collecting vocabulary for the publication of the greatest Chinese-Korean dictionary in the world.

At that time, persuading Chancellor Kim Sang-hyeop of Korea University was difficult enough. The reason was that it required an enormous amount of money, not to mention the fact that most of the intellectuals, including the government authorities, were still unaware of the importance of the Korea-China relationship, which would soon begin anew. I went to many people, in every field and sector, and appealed to them to support the project.

However, the only response I received was sardonic indifference. Forty-some years ago, Korean society had become used to the cold war relationship between East and West, and so it did not have the foresight of placing importance on such enterprises as compiling a Chinese-Korean dictionary. People who saw me trying to launch this project in any way I could thought of me as a daydreamer of the impossible. It must have seemed a reckless venture to them. The funds of the institute, which comprised more than one hundred people doing the compilation work, ran out like water from a bottomless vase. There were no such things as computers or the internet at the time, so everything had to be done by hand. It was a time-consuming, detailed and difficult work. After undergoing many indescribable hardships, we were finally able to begin the project, but our financial difficulties grew with each passing day. Though we bore up somehow for four, even five years, by 1982 we had almost reached our limit.

It was then that Heaven opened the way before me -- I was given the opportunity to meet the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

In the early winter of 1982, I had been visiting Korean societies in the U.S. to promote and sell the six volumes of "Overview of Korean Culture", published by our institute, in order to raise money for the compilation of our Chinese-Korean dictionary, when Rev. Moon invited me to a banquet in New York. I had not been acquainted with him until then, so I was nervous and cautious, but when I told him of my motivation for beginning the Chinese-Korean dictionary project, he said, "For ten years, I have been looking for a scholar with Prof. Hong's views, and I have finally met him today. The fact that Korea, which borders China and shares a deep historical and cultural relationship with her, does not have a Chinese dictionary is truly a national disgrace." He readily donated W200 million right there and then. At that time, W200 million was an enormous amount of money, more like W2 billion today.

And he went on to say that if Prof. Hong receives the money from Rev. Moon as a donation, the world will insult him with every possible abusive language, so we should arrange it in such a manner that the amount would be payment for one thousand sets of the six volumes of "Overview of Korean Culture".

Rev. Moon's great magnanimity and generosity moved me, and I was also touched that he showed consideration for the situation of the one he was helping. Until then, I had met with numerous people of the political, bureaucratic, financial and academic sectors of Korea to explain the project, only to find that they would not even stop to listen to what

I said. Then, unexpectedly, the most controversial person in the world had seen the cultural and historical importance of the project and offered to support us with a colossal sum. I was greatly shocked by his keen insight. As I listened to him speak late into the night, I was truly grateful to Heaven for sending this man to earth as a Korean. No matter what anyone might say, there is still hope left for Korea. This great figure has appeared and is leading the entire world with the spirit and culture of Korea. I can never forget the deep feelings that moved me on that day.

Needless to say, Rev. Moon's financial support was the decisive factor in publishing the Chinese-Korean dictionary.

Seven years later, in 1989, the Chinese-Korean mid-scale dictionary containing 180,000 words was published right before diplomatic relations were established between Korea and China. Four years after that, in 1993, we were able to finally publish the largest Chinese dictionary in the world, containing 300,000 words. This feat was achieved over the twenty years since the project was first conceived.

This Chinese-Korean dictionary is playing a decisive role today, not only in supporting the Korea -- China relationship through financial exchange, but also in the exchanges of culture and goods.

I cannot help but have these deep sentiments in regard to my life's work. 

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