Memorial Day, also known as ‘Hyeon Chung Il’, is celebrated as an official public holiday in Korea every June 6th. On this day, people honor the memory of the people who have sacrificed their lives for the country. Thousands of people including key political figures, veterans, bereaved families, and citizens gather at the National Cemetery in Seoul to honor the nation’s patriots. Throughout the country, people pray and lay flowers at the graves of the war dead. The people also display the country’s flag at half-mast on the front doors of their homes to commemorate war veterans and fallen heroes. Events and ceremonies varying in scale are held all over the country. Children participate in Memorial Day drawing contests held at schools. Students express their hope of a brighter future for North and South Korea through their homework essays. Intellectuals hold discussions about their desire for peace and an end to war. The country’s president gives a Memorial Day speech, saying the government will do its best to take care of those who sacrificed their lives for the country, promising plans to upgrade compensation for veterans and their families and intensify efforts to find missing soldiers and independence fighters. Many other solemn events are held on this day in honor of Korean heroes.
I get it.
Bottom line: we should honor our heroes.
We should pay tribute to all the brave men and women who fought for our freedom, even for a day each year. Thou shalt honor thy heroes!
But what is a hero? What comes to your mind when you hear the word “hero”? Some people think of fire fighters, knights in shining armors, GI Joes and Janes. I think of the song “Hero” by Mariah Carey. I hear her in my head, belting out “There’s a hero, when you look inside your heart”, doing her usual vocal acrobatics. I find this revolting, by the way. Mariah, yeah, we know. You can sing. You don’t have to perform riffs at every note of the song. Please! I have digressed. My apologies.
Most people think heroes are people who fight bloody battles, slay dragons, or save lives. Today’s heroes are not as noticeable as heroes of the past. They are ordinary, everyday people; people who are brave and selfless. Every day, people are put in situations where they have to confront their fears. They could be fears as trivial as being scared of cockroaches, or something as horrifying as death. There are people who put their lives on the line on a daily basis so that you and I can have better existence. Fishermen sail in dangerous waters to chase tunas so we can have our fresh sushi. Skyscraper window washers stand precariously on scaffoldings for us to have a better view in our offices. Workers in factories face the risk of losing their fingers when operating machines that make our flat screen TVs. Despite the dangers, these people go to work every day to earn money for their families. These people put their fears behind them and bravely face their tasks each day. They do their work for selfless reasons. They are heroes, too. Let us not forget that.
by Cecile Hwang,
Language Education Center
Cecile Hwang firstname.lastname@example.org
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