On Chung•Hyo•Ye

KSCPP National Essay Contest Honorable Mention

History is very much a cyclical being. After waves of instability, the world falls back into the equilibrium of instinctive values. No matter how much society progresses, it still must stand on the foundations of moral virtue. It is the virtues of Chung, Hyo, and Ye that form this comprehensive moral structure.  

Chung is the dutiful devotion to country and people. In the collection Chung•Hyo•YeChung•Hyo•Ye, Chung is characterized through the loyal actions of conscientious citizens including Pak Jesang, Sadaham, and Choi Yeong. This principle is the key adhesive to the polar and divisive American society that we live in. “We the people” the Declaration of Independence states in large, curly yet unassailable letters. Without the dutiful patriotism and individual sacrifices of the governed, our society would not function. Currently, we live in a society corrupted by capitalist interest and greed. Chung is fading. This virtue can be revitalized through the selfless actions of all members of society to push a human agenda not personal credences. Our representatives must not repeat the faults of Yi In-i’m and Yim Gyeon-mi and steer the government for the people, not private interests. Citizens must be respectful of the strenuous nature of being an elected official and respect those who are coherent with the views of the people. Our modern society needs Chung to continue a society based on the greater good. Maybe it is not to the extent of establishing a national loan system like Eulpaso, but every citizen has the right and the responsibility to create positive change.  

Hyo is filial devotion. This principle is more valuable than ever in our world today with the development of the nuclear family. With fewer children and more means of travel, families are becoming more separated than ever before — especially with the high divorce rates creating disparaged relationships. There is a higher reliance on Hyo in our modern world, and it is up to the youth to fill this demand. The public must take up their responsibility to visit their elderly loved ones and care for them. Additionally, we must visit those who do not have families at nursing homes and veterans hospitals; everybody deserves the comforts of communal interaction. Our people must adopt the selfless virtue of Sim Cheong and be grateful toward guardians — for the wellness of others is the betterment of oneself. In our modern society of fractured patriarchal relations and many orphans who find no figure of love — Hyo must be stronger. These children should find a positive role model to look up to and care for. It is our society’s job to act as these role models and provide parental support to those who lack it. It is these two classes who need Hyo the most in the modern world: the elderly and orphaned. Furthermore, it is our duty to provide Hyo and an outlet for Hyo for those who need it.

Ye does not stand for KanYeWest, rather it is the virtuous way of life (whether the two are correlative or antipode is subjective). This principle may just be the most important of the three as it encompasses all that is outlined in the “tales of filial devotion, loyalty, respect and benevolence from the history and folklore of Korea.” Ye means to live the most with what little you may have. Ye means to pursue big dreams under small circumstance. Ye means to live a happy life while creating happiness for others. It is the cornerstone of the American Dream and Yeis a mandatory virtue in achieving personal success. In the present day, Ye must continue to be practiced in every aspect of life. One must consider the goals of a community over the personal aspiration — to follow JFK’s proverb: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. One should also indulge in the beauties of nature and preserve nature’s everlasting persistence. Ye means to be the rose growing through the cracks between cement. Ye means to be the tiger protecting its cubs from the dark and scavenging for food to feed its parents. Ye means to be the bee which day by day retrieves honey so that the beehive can prosper. One should also strive for happiness. America is a country that secures “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Living to the fullest of Ye means that we must take advantage of these given freedoms and continue to create freedoms for those who do not have them.

No matter how “modern” our world today has become, we cannot ignore the universal and timeless virtues set through the folklore of Korea. Chung・Hyo・Ye illustrates these seemingly idealistic values into realistic anecdotes. While some of these stories may seem more fantastical than concrete, this collection sets forth an impermeable set of morals in describing a virtuous life and collaborative community. Chung, Hyo, and Ye are philosophical foundations that should be considered in modern decisions no matter how large or minuscule the matter. These values act as retaliation against greed, ego, and contempt. It is no doubt that if people begin to comprehend and apply these traditional Korean virtues that our world will once again become whole. Moreover, these ancient morals will provide a basis for modern reform. Maybe it is false that modern problems require modern solutions and that we as a society must refer back to a life of benevolence and modesty through Chung・Hyo・Ye.


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