Our country that I desire

I came across a writing of Kim Gu who was a political leader during the Japanese occupation. It was written in 1947, shortly after the end of the occupation. Korea was then already divided between North and South, occupied by the USSR and US with no independent government yet. Although it was written over 60 years ago, the power of his vision and idea still moves me. I am proud that we had such a visionary leader. Yet, I am deeply sad that we have not lived up to his vision. I copied the portion of his essay — Our Country that I Desire — in Korean and then translate it in English. Unfortunately, he was assassinated and never saw his vision to be realized. I hope to see the new generation of Koreans build Korea the most beautiful country in the world.

나는 우리나라가 세계에서 가장 아름다운 나라가 되기를 원한다. 가장 부강한 나라가 되기를 원하는 것은 아니다. 내가 남의 침략에 가슴이 아팠으니, 내 나라가 남을 침략하는 것을 원치 아니한다. 우리의 부력(富力)은 우리의 생활을 풍족히 할 만하고, 우리의 강력(强力)은 남의 침략을 막을 만하면 족하다. 오직 한없이 가지고 싶은 것은 높은 문화의 힘이다. 문화의 힘은 우리 자신을 행복되게 하고, 나아가서 남에게 행복을 주겠기 때문이다. 지금 인류에게 부족한 것은 무력도 아니오, 경제력도 아니다. 인류가 현재에 불행한 근본 이유는 인의(仁義)가 부족하고, 자비가 부족하고, 사랑이 부족한 때문이다. 이 마음만 발달이 되면 현재 물질로도 온 인류가 다 편히 살아갈 수 있을 것이다. 인류의 이 정신을 배양하는 것은 오직 문화다. 나는 우리나라가 남의 것을 모방하는 나라가 되지 말고, 이러한 높고 새로운 문화의 근원이 되고, 목표가 되고, 모범이 되기를 원한다. 그래서 진정한 세계 평화가 우리나라에서, 우리나라로 말미암아 실현되기를 원한다.”

“I want our country to become the most beautiful country in the world. Neither the wealthiest nor the mightiest. Since we suffered deeply from the invasion by another nation, I do not want us to invade others. I will be content if our wealth is sufficient to provide for all of us and our strength enough to protect us from others. The only one do I seek is the power of advanced culture. It is because the power of culture not only makes us happy, but does the same to others. What mankind lacks now is neither the military might nor the economic power. We all suffer because we lack benevolence and justice, mercy, and love. If we have these characters in us, we already have enough to provide sufficiently for all mankind to live well together. Culture is the only way to nurture these characters in us. I do not want us to imitate others’; instead, I want us to become the fountain, the standard, and the role model of the new culture with these ideals. Through this, I hope the permanent world peace will be gained in and by our country.”

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