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Faces of Korea: A Mother's Devotion Updated: 2007-04-19 12:00:00 KST

Faces of Korea: A Mother's Devotion
Time for a break from the news, and for our Faces of Korea segment.
In this installment, we have the story of a renowned Korean calligrapher during the Joseon Dynasty who would have remained an unknown if not for the devotion of his mother.
The most beautiful word in the English language is ''mother.''
That's according to a British Council poll on 40-thousand people in more than 100 non-English-speaking countries.
Devoted mothers throughout history have fostered their children into becoming famous figures.
Korea has one such mother who raised her son to become a national legend.
Han Seokbong was one of four noted calligraphers of the mid-Joseon Dynasty.
He was born during the reign of Joseon Dynasty King Jungjong, who ruled from 1506 to 1544.
The king's successor Seonjo also took a liking to the calligrapher.
Han was put in charge of writing most official and diplomatic documents.
The gifted calligrapher also grew famous in China for his exceptional penmanship.

''Han Seokbong's penmanship is characterized by precision and gracefulness. Dots, strokes and letter textures are very standard and based on the work of the great Chinese calligrapher Wang Lixin. The precise and graceful spirit of ethicists in the mid-Joseon Dynasty is also reflected in his penmanship.''

Being a good calligrapher was a huge honor in Han's time.
East Asian culture prizes good calligraphy as highly as good paintings.

''Calligraphy reflects artistry, philosophy and the thoughts and emotions of the calligrapher. The ink tip is just black but its use can produce mysterious colorful effects that are dark or light, dry or rich. Each style of penmanship also has its own features that bring artistic integrity and balance.''

Han's mother raised her son to become the best calligrapher of his day.
His father died when he was young, and Han's family could not afford to give him a proper education.
His mother sold rice cakes to financially support him, and did everything for her son's education.
One famous episode stands out about Han.
One day, he returned home from studying because he missed his mother.
She turned off the light and let her son write while she cut rice cakes.
Her strict approach to his education helped her son become a gifted calligrapher.
Her efforts helped him to achieve eternal greatness.

''The educational method of Han Seokbong's mother stressed two principles. The first was to set a good example and the second was to devote herself to her son. She was warm and soft inside but was also strict at times, and this showed her sincere love for her son.''

No records or documents have been found about Han's mother.
Nothing is known about her name or date of death.
This is because her life was her son.
Calligrapher Han is similar to other famous figures in world history, in that he had a mother devoted to his upbringing.
As an old saying goes, one great mother is equal to 100 teachers.
For legendary calligrapher Han Seokbong, his mother's love and devotion turned an ordinary man into a great historical figure.
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