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Op-Ed Special
Cherishing Our Children
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
Children are the gems of adulthood; the pride and joy of womanhood, the affirmation of manhood, and validation of parenthood. That’s because kids are like the uncanny payback for our own mischievous youthful days. Indeed, children are living reminders of our youthful folly. When children are around, life seems so eventful, and the wonder-years return like awkward reminders of our lost innocence.

Childhood is a time of wonderment, a state of adventurism, curious exploration and random questioning. Childhood is such a delightful age, it’s such a shame we only get to experience it when we are too young to appreciate it. Sadly, most of us only learn to value our childhood years after they’ve come and gone. Even more dismaying is the fact that for some children, their younger years are so fraught with hardship, they longingly yearn to be grown.

There are reasons to believe that childhood is one of the most meaningful periods in our lives. Unfortunately, many adults only realize this fact after they have grown up. Still, our childhood years are so significant to our psyche, we often recall them as the “delightful days of long ago.” Moreover, we frequently reflect on them in casual conversations and interaction with others.

For example, we usually describe someone we know from our growing years as a “childhood friend.” When we have an experience that causes us to enjoy a childish event or adventure, we refer to it as “a second childhood.” A delightful experience that evokes a childlike desires and longing is likened to a kid in a candy store.” Also, when the honest nature of a child leads him/her to make an unfavorable remark about themselves or family members, adults often remark that “Children and fools tell the truth,” or “Children say the darndest things.”

Most parents will admit that their children often remind them of their younger-selves in so many ways. Oh the joys of childhood! The years of innocence! The first decade of unbridled curiosity! These are the benchmark of an unyielding quest for exploration and inexhaustible wonder. These are the norms of a fortunate childhood.

Knowing this, it is safe to say that children are the heritage of our existence; the hope of the future and promise of tomorrow. A contented, healthy and playful child is a blessing from heaven; a reflection of our youthful upbringing, and the product of our maturing years. Indeed, children are like living treasures in our lives. Through their eyes, we can see the endearing aspirations for a better world, and the prospect for nurturing a new generation.

Naturally, the children of today are the hopes and promises of a viable future. Parents who cherish and protect their children insure themselves against the instabilities of an uncertain future. A generation that invests in its offspring is laying the groundwork for better tomorrow. A society that nurtures and supports its children lays the foundation for a stronger nation and a model society. A country that educates and trains its children invariably builds a better world.

Conversely, parents who abuse and neglect their children invariably put their own welfare at risk. Countries that neglect their manifest duty to ensure the wellbeing of their youth are destabilizing the foundations of social order, and sabotaging their prospect for a stronger nation. Anyone who victimizes his or her offspring devalues life’s most important asset, imperils their own potential for prosperity and greater possibilities.

Incidentally, the most developed and prosperous nations invest more resources in educating, safeguarding and training their youth to become contributing members of society. It is especially troubling that poorer nations with more children living in poverty tend to invest less in education. Not surprisingly, they have fewer schools, a scarcity of training programs for their younger citizens; which correlates with higher incidences of juvenile delinquency, and a large percentage of children getting trapped in correctional facilities or prison system.

Naturally, leaders of poorer countries are quick to argue that having less resource means less capacity to adequately provide for their children. Actually, if half the funds lost to corruption, financial mismanagement, and malfeasance could be invested in their children, their nations would become more productive and prosperous. As the rate of productivity and prosperity's increases, a host of social problems would also decrease incrementally.

Sadly, we live in an age when children are being robbed of their innocence, massacred by Muslim extremists, sold into the sex trade, and trained as child soldiers by guerrilla warriors. Too often, innocent children are caught in the middle of social and political upheavals caused by adults. Some are ensnared into the illicit drug trade and criminal gangs. Others are being deprived of their homes and parental protection because of civil conflicts. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of children are forced into refugee camps where they are exposed to untold dangers and inhumane treatment. With all the cruelties, harm and inhumanities heaped upon children today, it is possible to regard this period in history as the decade of endangered children.

Indeed, Korean independence activists made a prudent move by supporting a movement with the stated goal of ensuring the social welfare of children. Such a noble aim was akin to their own efforts to obtain liberation from the Japanese oppressors. Clearly, the fight to reclaim Korea’s national sovereignty and the social wellbeing of children are inextricably linked. After all, an oppressive society invariably undermines the emotional, physical and psychological development of children. The rights of all citizens are adversely affected by flagrant victimization of children. Where children are prevented from thieving, the soul of the nation is sickened, and the fabric of society is eventually weakened by such blatant neglect.

Thankfully, social activist Bang Jeong Hwan had the foresight to embrace the role of chief advocate for the wellbeing of the nation’s children. Using his credibility to advance such a noteworthy cause, he inspired a nation to adopt a day that honors the younger members of Korean society. Years later, a group of patriotic students studying in Tokyo, and inspired by nationalistic pride, selected May 1st as the day to honor Korea’s children. Since Laborers Day was also celebrated on May 1st, National Children’s Day was officially changed to May 5th in 1961, when the Children Welfare Law was adopted into the Korean Constitution.

This Children’s Day, take the time to brighten a child’s day. Take him/her to a child-oriented attraction, like an aquarium, amusement park, or a museum. In case there is a schedule conflict, then find alternative ways to give him/her a delightful experience. Those who have no children can spend time with a niece, nephew, or cousin. Those who are unable to interact with their younger relatives can visit an orphanage and give a motherless child new reasons to feel special. Whenever possible, make an effort to cherish a child this Children’s Day.

Every responsible adult can do something special for a deprived child. Select a needy child and infuse him/her with a sense of belonging, like one who is adored, loved and valued. Commit a random act of kindness on a child who yearns to feel cherished by a benevolent, caring adult. What better time to make a disadvantaged child feel like a fortunate kid than on Children’s Day?

Remember this! Your goodwill gesture on a child’s behalf will never go unnoticed. Instead, it will gladden our own heart, and brighten the countenance of an unfortunate youngster. Our conscientious efforts to meet the needs of a destitute child, and provide meaningful assistance to an underprivileged youngster is our way of emulating Bang Jeong Hwan’s compassionate care for society’s most vulnerable members.

Editor’s Note

The writer currently teaches Communicative English at HankyongNational University. He has also authored a forthcoming book “A Few Choice Words.” He can be reached at cuforbes@gmail.com



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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at cuforbes@gmail.com

 

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