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Traditional academy in S. Korea teaches right way to live

(Xinhua)

17:02, September 20, 2011

SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Hakseong Lecture Hall, located in Gimje, some 262 kilometers southwest of Seoul, maintains a traditional way of teaching in modern days, putting a great emphasis on educating morals and ethics.

As early as 7 in the morning, the students, dressed in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, are wide awake and ready for class.

Before the beginning of class, all students must bow low to their teacher, Kim Su-yeon, as a way of showing respect.

Kim, the 86-year-old Confucian scholar, also wears hanbok as well as a black horsehair skullcap.

This academy, established in 1954 by Kim, has been committed to preserving traditional culture and educating today's young people on traditional ethical values and principles that are easily forgotten in modern times.

It offers an experience of the austere lifestyle of Korean traditional Confucian scholars in the past, in addition to a number of learning opportunities, including Chinese characters, traditional manners and calligraphy writing.

The class is conducted through one-on-one instruction. Each student has an opportunity for a face-to-face teaching session with Kim, during which the student reads aloud and interprets ancient Chinese Confucian books, such as the Three Bonds and Five Moral Rules in Relationship.

Kim said the most important lesson he tries to convey to his students through Confucian teaching is how to live a righteous life, hence the emphasis on filial piety, respect for elders and social responsibility.

"There is a road that men walk, and there is another road that animals walk. But these days the difference between them is not clear. Learning these texts would help people go right on the road that men walk," said Kim.

The students practice writing Chinese characters while waiting for their turn to see the teacher. Most of them reside at the academy and maintain the traditional way of life, though they go to work or attend school outside of the academy after the morning class with Kim.

Won Su-ik, who majors in oriental medicine at a college, has been studying at the academy for three years. He said he began studying Confucianism to better understand oriental medicine, but now he has obtained an even more valuable lesson.

"Studying Confucianism has provided me not only with the understanding of oriental medicine, but more importantly with great lessons as well as a guide to an overall way of living a life. Such things have fascinated me and that I've been continuing to study Confucianism," said 28-year-old Won.

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