Go to contents

[Opinion] Bare Feet Saint

Posted December. 23, 2004 23:06,   


Freelance producer Kim Woo-hyun first set his eyes on elderly Choi Choon-seon’s rough and dirty bare feet in the early summer of 1995. He was unconsciously drawn to a weird looking elderly person talking in gibberish about the Christian faith. People treated the elderly man, who walked around bare feet in winter, as if he was crazy or a fanatic Christian. The old man shouted into the camera, “I will not wear shoes until the reunification.”

Kim followed after the elderly for six years since and after two years of editing, produced a 34-minute documentary, “Eight Blisses,” in the summer of 2003. In the process of making his documentary, Kim realized why Choi goes around shouting, “Miss Korea Yoo Gwan-soon! Why two Koreas? Mr. Korea Ahn Joong-gun! Why two Koreas!” It meant Ahn and Yoo are the true Koreans and if Korea was full of these kinds of people, why is Korea divided into two? Kim also realized that Choi refused to wear shoes for more than 30 years because he wanted to share the pain of the divided Korea.

Kim, who visited Choi’s house one day, found it surprising that Choi lived in quite a luxurious house and raised five priests and professors. Choi called his wife an “angel.” Kim heard that Choi, a child of a rich family, experienced God’s love and that he was engaged in independence movement while studying in Tokyo. The real estate that Choi inherited was given to the poor and displaced people. Choi said, “There is no one to envy, no one to be afraid of, and no one to hate.”

Choi left us on September 2001 at the age of 82. His descendents placed Choi, who refused to receive any award due to the shame of a divided Korea, at Daejeon National Cemetery. Kim recently published “Eight Blisses” on DVD containing Choi’s images and books on the behind the scenes stories. Choi may be a “bare feet saint” who lived in “the far below” with people’s ignorance towards him.

Oh Myung-chul, Editorial writer, oscar@donga.com