By Lee Jong-hwan
(World Korean newspaper publisher)
The "Yeoljeon(列傳)" of "Sagi(史記)," written by Samacheon, begins with Baek-yi(伯夷). The "Yeoljeon" consists of 70 episodes. It is significant that this series began with the story of Baek-yi and Sook-je(叔齊). It is also said that Kim Deuk-shin, a poet of the mid-Joseon Dynasty, rated Baek-yi Yeoljeon as the best among the series, and memorized Baek-yi as many as 11,300 times in his life.
Baek-yi and Sook-je is the story of King Mu of Chinese Zhou Dynasty. When King Mu overthrew the Yin Dynasty, Baek-yi and Sook-je were not going to be the subject of King Mu, and they conceald themselves into Suyangsan Mountain and ate wild ferns, and starved to death. As Samacheon began Baek-yi with "Yeoljeon" stories, he asked if it was the Tao(道) of heaven that good people were in trouble. It is so-called the controversy over the principles of heaven.
Baek-yi and Sook-je built virtue and cleaned up their behavior, but eventually starved to death. There are many cases like them. Ahn Yeon, who praised Confucius for his love of learning among his 70 disciples, was always poor. He died young because he couldn't even eat enough rice wine leftovers and rice bran.
On the other hand, Do-choek, a bandit at the end of Spring and Autumn Period of China, were different. Every day he went around the world killing innocent people and doing cruel things. But he died after enjoying the life that heaven had given him. Introducing this story, Samacheon lamented as follows.
"According to recent cases, some people are doing things that are not right and are prohibited by laws and regulations, but are enjoying prosperity all their lives, and wealth and glory continue for generations to come from generation to generation. On the other hand, there are so many people who select the ground even if they take a step, wait for the right time when they talk, and meet disasters even if they do not do something fair and right. This fact is baffling. If this is the law of heaven, is it right or wrong?"
<Sagi> is so exciting that it is difficult to let go once you have it in your hand. It depicts the stories of numerous characters who lived during the Chinese Spring and Autumn Warring States Period and the Jin-han Dynasty.
I remembered the contents of this book on the plane in U.S. I was on Delta Air Lines, and I noticed quite a few people holding electronic books on the plane. The Sky Mall brochure on the plane also said that you can order e-books containing 200 English and American literature by mail for about 100 dollars.
Looking at this, I thought it would be nice if overseas Koreans could access books from Korea as e-books. It is not yesterday or today that e-books were introduced. World Korean News have been providing e-books for paper versions since many years ago.
I think it would be nice to make contents that make up our own culture into e-books so that not only domestic but also overseas Koreans can easily find them. That will help foster the identity of not only the first generation of Koreans but also the second generation. The South Korean government may be able to offer these e-books cheaply.
While I was looking for e-books, I came across the Gutenberg Project by chance. This is a project to provide free e-books in honor of the spirit of Gutenberg, who made books out of metal type. Book content is donated by the authors or past classics are uploaded as e-books for free.
Wouldn't it be nice to make a "Jik-ji Project" to commemorate this meaning? That way, you will be able to download classical masterpieces as well as works donated by copyright holders for free. I think this is also a measure of Hong-ik spirit, which is the spirit of the human race to be widely beneficial to people.