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[Editorial] One Man’s Meaningful Life

Posted November. 16, 2006 06:12,   


Firefighter Seo Byung-gil died on Tuesday after rescuing two people from a blazing house in downtown Busan, teaching us an invaluable lesson. His death is an event that makes us look at how selfish we are, how much we overlook our neighbors’ misfortunes and tragedies while shielding our own lives and families.

Seo died in an honorable way just about a month before his retirement. His colleagues, who visited a funeral home in Busan, lamented his death, saying, “He did not have to go to the dangerous site.”

“I have never seen Seo take a rest, even for a day, over the past 30 years,” Seo’s family said with sorrow in their voices.

His colleagues said Seo was always the first to sprint into the most dangerous places. A house collapsed when Seo went deep inside it to check if anyone was left behind.

He has put out fires at 19,500 sites and saved the lives of 1,050 people. If you include the lives of the two people rescued by Seo on Tuesday, his total becomes 1,052. He has also transported some 2,100 patients who needed immediate medical care to hospitals. Serving the public as a firefighter for 33 years is truly something to be proud of, and dying for someone in the last days of his career as a firefighter is something very remarkable.

He has left us a very meaningful message. Seo, whose sacrifice teaches us how to lead a meaningful life, has also become a role model for public servants in uniform. Seo did not die in vain. We should stop saying that sacrifice is a loss for oneself and one’s family. Instead, we should engrave his proud name, Seo Byung-gil, on our hearts, so as to not forget his priceless sacrifice.

The U.S. lost 342 firefighters in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, and Korea lost six marines during the naval clashes in the West Sea. But the two countries have shown dramatic differences in treating the victims of the tragedies. George W. Bush went to the collapsed World Trade Center immediately after hearing the news and encouraged firefighters and other rescue workers. He even declared a war against terrorism. Meanwhile, the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations have virtually ignored the recognition of their honorary sacrifices so as to not to provoke North Korea.

Above all, we should make the effort to create a social atmosphere where bereaved families can feel proud of their family members’ honorable deaths. An influx of honeyed praises and words of comfort may leave a deeper wound to the bereaved family members. I sincerely express my deepest condolences and respect to Seo’s family for his honorable death.