<Editor's Note> This is the interview of Prof. RHEE Dongshick with announcer in the TV talk show
aired on Dec. 8, 1990 on the Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS). It was translated by
Dr. YUN Woncheol (State University of New York, USA., at that time).
MC I guess the revival of the Tao tradition would have much significance to the solution of problems of modern civilization.
RHEE It would be the ultimate solution of all the problems of modern civilization for the sake of the whole world as well as of our country. As Dr. William Barrett, an American philosopher, pointed out, the Tao tradition will help Western thinkers to liberate themselves from the conceptual prison provided by Plato that has been binding them.
As of the modern scientific civilization, we used to confuse scientific technology with science proper. When we say "science," we used to mean "scientific technology." The Western tradition of science in
its essence has been an effort to understand nature, and has shared some common ground with the Tao tradition. But that original feature of science is forgotten now. Science as mere technology is a method of conquering, not understanding, nature. To conquer or rule over somebody, you don't have to understand that person. You just need to know his weak points. If his weak point is that he is never able to refuse money, then you offer him money. Then you can conquer him without having any understanding of his true nature at all. That's exactly the way of scientific technology. It inevitably entails destruction. Since quite a while ago, there has been efforts to humanize science in the West. Humanization of science is equivalent to realization of the Tao in science. That would be the ideal relationship of science and the Tao.
MC As a conclusion, would you please give advice to the audience, especially the youth?
RHEE Several years ago, over the period of about three years, I gave lectures on the national identity(subjectivity) to diplomats as a part of an educational program in an institution. What I've found is that the old generation has less confidence in the national identity(subjectivity) than the young. It's a remnant of the effect of Japanese colonial education. When it comes to the youngsters of around twenty, about seven out of ten show strong confidence in the national identity (subjectivity), while the other three are still the same as the old generation.
Our young generation should be aware of the hazardous remnants of the Japanese colonial education that the old generation carry with them, make efforts not to be contaminated by them, and never inherit their groundless hatred of our own traditional culture. It is much encouraging that nowadays many young people are eager to learn our tradition, especially because I think our tradition is all about the Tao. Tan'gun mythology is a good example. It is a story of the Tao: the bear practiced the Tao and thus became human female so as to beget Tan'gun, the founder of Korean nation. Therefore we may say that our tradition of national identity(subjectivity) started with the Tao. Another example is T'aeg?kki (Tai Chi Flag), our national flag. A college professor said that its design is too complicate and thus should be replaced with a new simpler one. His idea is totally due to his ignorance of the deep meaning of T'aeg?k. T'aeg?k represents the Tao. Many foreigners, once learning about its meaning, express their jealousy of our national flag. The Tao is peace and harmony. Hence the ideology with which Tan'gun founded the first Korean nation: "To benefit all human beings." Concern in human prevailed our tradition all through its history. I hope our young generations keep this deep in their hearts in order to be the creators of a new human civilization that will be based upon meeting of the Far East traditional culture and the Western scientific culture as Prof. Reischauer predicted a few years ago.
MC I think we young generation people can now feel pride in our tradition. If we make efforts to stay always awakened, checking and reflecting on ourselves, laziness will never be able to intrude into our lives. But it is not easy to always keep away from all the temptations that surround us. Therefore it is said that life is a process of practicing the Tao. Good night.
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