This I Believe

CHUL - VIENNA, Virginia
Entered on December 13, 2006

The Value of Accidental Meetings

I believe in the value of accidental meetings. Everyday I meet many people in places such as streets, markets, the subway, campus, and so on. Even though most of those meetings pass by me senselessly, I figure some of them might have important meaning in my life. This fall, I was able to meet many students from other countries who took the EFL Program of Georgetown University. When running into them everyday, I ask myself how importantly I recognize the value of meetings with them. And then, I think about a priceless anecdote: how an accidental meeting of a diplomat with a woman of the red light street paved the way for saving my country from the invasion of another country.

His name was Sunyeon Hong, and he lived in the 16th century. As a diplomatic official of the Choseon Dynasty, he used to go to Beijing, China. One night he looked around the red light street in Beijing. Then he chanced upon a strange house. The house had put up a sign which demanded a ridiculously high price for the cost of just a one night party. He was really interested in that sign, so he went into that house and asked why the cost for only a one night party was so high. A woman of that house told him her sad story. She had not been an original street girl, and her father had been a Chinese government official. But there had been a mischief afoot, and her father had been put in jail. Therefore, in order to make money for saving her father from death, she had decided to become a woman of the red light street for only one night. She sobbed right afterward, saying her father was in danger of his life. Sunyeon Hong was deeply moved by her words, so he gave her a huge sum of money for nothing and left her house.

A number of years later, Japan invaded my country. At that time, the war was not going in my country’s favor, so my country asked China to help. But because the national power of China was so weak in those days, she was reluctant to help my country. Then, one day China asked my country to dispatch Sunyeon Hong as an envoy. When he arrived in Beijing, he was invited to a powerful figure’s house and greatly welcomed. In addition, the influential person promised him to send troops. Sunyeon Hong was very puzzled and couldn’t get the picture. But then, a woman came in the room and politely greeted him. She was that very woman who had been in the red light street a few years ago. He had never expected to see her there, but she was the wife of that high-ranking official. She had told her husband the gift which she had received from Sunyeong Hong and persuaded him to help my country.

Through the EFL course, actually I have been able to see many students from other countries up close, and it helps me see and understand a lot better. Before the class started, I thought they were supposed to be really different from one another. But I learned that even though they used other languages and grew up in different cultures, they are not that different from each other. Especially I have never seen a student that has not high and beautiful ambitions. I’d bet they will play an important role in their country or international society someday. I hope I will see them again in the future, discussing peace, welfare and cooperation on the basis of thinking that we are not different. For that reason, I’ll cherish the meaning of our accidental meetings and take it as precious property during my whole life. Besides, I think it is really true that when I think about it, I will be more sincere and trustworthy. That’s why I believe in the value of accidental meetings.