Keeping Tradition Alive
Chonghakdong, South Korea
TIES: Kids study the old way.
Greg Girard/Contact Press Images for TIME .
By HANNAH BEECH Chonghakdong
Chonghakdong village is defiantly old economy. Men pad around in the traditional
Korean dress of pajama-like pants, and schoolchildren sit at wooden desks
poring over ancient Korean analects. There isn't a computer or a microwave
As South Korea grew into the world's 12th-largest economy, folks in the
tiny hamlet at the foot of Mount Chiri continued to live as their ancestors
had. Theirs was a village modern Korea just about forgotand then
When the country was pummeled by the Asian economic crisis in 1997, city
folk started worrying that Korea had lost its soul. So Chonghakdong, once
a place of exile, has started educating a new generation in old values.
Hundreds of parents nationwide have sent their children to study there.
Kim Chong Sun, 35, presides over four students in a calligraphy class.
"Modern knowledge-based education makes you smart," he says, "but it doesn't
build the good character needed for a strong nation. For that you need
Park Song Hee, 10, is practicing calligraphy and obedience, even though
he fully intends to return to Seoul to study computer science. Despite
homesickness, he says he'll stick it out for now. "If I stay here I will
learn how to be strong and not to brag," he says shyly. "But I still miss
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