“I want to be like the ‘True Master’ who embraced even the ‘other things’ of the students with passion”
In 2017, two years before his death, Ahn Seok-jae (left), a teacher at Hwibon High School in Seoul, visited a painting exhibition held by the writer Bo-kyung Kim (center) and a friend (right) and took a photo together. Provided by Kim Bo-kyung
Last November 16th was the two year anniversary of my respected teacher’s passing. In an era when it was said that there were no more true teachers, I was fortunate to have met a very good teacher. One of them is Teacher Ahn Seok-jae. I want to share the memories of Mr. Ahn, who left at the age of fifty-five, too early, in this way, in writing, and make them into a shared memory. Hwibong High School, located in Hwigyeong-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, the first impression most students remember from the teacher will be the day of the entrance ceremony. Glasses with a friendly smile. A person who looked like a small tree in a blue vest. A camera held in both hands. It seemed like he could appear in As if he could do magic. From then on, my friend and I called him ‘Snowflake Teacher’. At that time, our school, which was an innovative school, was called a ‘dung-tong’ in the neighborhood because the students did not study and did other things. However, in the eyes of the teacher, that ‘other thing’ was full of potential and vitality. The teacher always brought a camera and meticulously documented the scenes where students campaigned for the student council president, performed hip-hop and band performances in the front yard of the school, and put on a stage for elaborate plays. Like a child watching a fireworks display, as if not to miss a single moment… . Wherever the teacher was, we seemed to have become wonderful and important people without doing anything special.
Ahn Seok-jae looks at an event hosted by Hwibon High School students in Jongno, Seoul in 2017. The deceased, who died of illness on November 16, 2019, always carried a camera with him during his lifetime to record the activities of his disciples. Provided by Kim Bo-kyung
The late teacher Ahn Seok-jae is talking with students in the school garden at Hwibong High School in Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul in 2017. Provided by Kim Bo-kyung
Once, as an executive of the student council, we discussed good events hosted by school festivals. The teacher seemed to be more excited than me, saying, ‘Let’s make our school’s own culture blossom properly after the festival’. That evening, I met the teacher again at the school gate. He said that his heart has been pounding continuously since I left, and he asked me to review the events to be held in the second semester. I can’t forget the teacher’s face when he spoke while showing his fingers one by one. With a very happy expression, he smiled so clear that it hurts his heart. How do you think of student events as your business? , the moment I met the teacher’s bright face, I decided that if I were to become a teacher in the future, I would be like the teacher. On April 16, 2014, after the sinking of the Sewol ferry, I went out to Gwanghwamun Square with a friend whenever I had a chance. The first meeting I went to in my life was dark, fierce, and scary. So, walking around in school uniform, I met the teacher in the middle of the crowd. The relief at that time was… . The teacher would send us home at 10pm. If we persist that we won’t go back, we’ll go home together in the end. When I got on the subway with discouragement and disappointment, the teacher gently pulled out an energy bar. “Energy bars are the best snacks to give when there is someone who looks like you’re going out next to me,” and the teacher always carried an energy bar in his bag.
Teacher Ahn Seok-jae is preparing a school commemorative event with students in the audio-visual room of Hwibon High School in Seoul in 2017. Provided by Kim Bo-kyung
The teacher was a teacher of hope. He went through a lot of things and saw a lot of pain, but he tried to move forward with hope without suffering because of it. It can also be seen in the last message exchanged with the teacher on January 7, 2019. “It seems to be thanks to the concern and concern of many people, and it seems to be getting a little better… , I thought that no matter how sick you are, you still need to have faith in moving forward. The idea that I can’t lose hope no matter how old I get, even if my body hurts, is the gift I gave you this morning. If Bo-kyung meets the teacher later, she will be a little surprised. The teacher removed the larynx, so she can’t speak anymore. But even when Bo-kyung meets, I want to show my faith in hope and progress.” After that, I did not see the teacher. The teacher continued to dream while receiving treatment. He said he wanted to hold a photo exhibition someday because he had been taking photos all his life, continued his research for better education, and was curious about the school scene in Germany and asked, ‘Do you know any good German textbooks?’ A field trip to Germany was also scheduled, but it seems to have been canceled due to the worsening of the teacher’s condition. The death of my teacher left me with assignments. In a world where teachers no longer exist, I want to keep the things you showed me in my life. The love shown by the students and the school field. Passion for education, hope for people and the world. I hope that many people will remember how to care about the hunger of the person next to you. Disciple/Kim Bo-kyung