It is surprising to me that I am retiring as a professor in the university. It was not an unusual case in the 1960s that I had to support my sick mother, my hump-backed younger sister, my younger brother and my baby sister at the age of 14 when my father left for his second wife and never returned. I would like to look back my life to suggest some ideas for hopeful youth in incredible hardship. < Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
University was my first turning point as it opened a new world in which some free time was found for myself besides trying to survive with my family members. While I worked as an English teacher and then as a businessman in Korean Airlines, I did not give up my habit of studying something important, for example, English language and the fundamental wisdom to understand the world, which has been simply called as the humanities. Because I knew that I should change my jobs several times and that I had to train the basic skills to cope with this rapidly transforming society.
One of my colleagues in Korean Airlines asked me to accompany him to endure a full-day English test in Australian Embassy. Thus it was an unexpected opportunity to study English literature in Sydney University with the full scholarship of Australian government for only one person in Korea. Even though I was not well prepared to live in Sydney with my wife and two babies, I managed to become a first-class interpreter and translator as well as a part-time English teacher while searching for lucrative jobs.
I had to go back to Korea due to the abrupt termination of my scholarship in the IMF situation in Australia. However, it became another turning point for my public life because I was soon hired as Senior Lecturer by Kyungwon College in 1991. This was the real beginning of my career at the age of 38. I tried to prepare my students of the department of the Secretariats to become excellent secretaries who would be regarded no less than the graduates from the department of the Secretariats in Ewha Woman’s University especially in terms of English language skills. Until the merger of Kyungwon College into Gachon University in 2007, the employment rate was so successful that the number of students enrolled in my department had increased to be really big. I was competent to teach English language to any people in any level because I had been teaching since the age of 14.
Becoming a professor in the department of English language and literature was not a hard task because I had been studying English language and the humanities all my life. I had no problem to behave as a well-seasoned scholar and was well prepared to produce professional papers and books. The humanities is the key for me to handle rapidly changing environments in my public career.
I studied western culture all my life. But I am Korean after all. It means I have tried to understand western culture in the eyes of a Korean man. Thus it was natural for me to introduce important western texts, such as Jonathan Culler’s On Deconstruction and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, by way of the translation. And I began to write poems first in English but soon in Korean with 6 books of poems up to now. I became heavily involved in literary criticism in Korean literary scene with the book titled The Age of Deconstruction.
I am retiring now but my job will not be any different. It has been teaching and writing, and will be. Looking at the life-after-retirement of my very successful friends from Yongsan High School and Seoul National University, I am very happy. The humanities has no system of retirement but only adequate adjustments for the moment
Lee Man Sik
Dept. of Englsih Literature