Standing amid snow-covered fields and squat white farmhouses with fingers chapped from years of planting ginseng, Ban Ki-jong traced his village's destiny in the shape of a nearby mountain. "See how it looks like a crane," he pointed, "with its wings spread open, ready to fly?""Feng shui tells us this is a perfect shape for funnelling natural forces into the village," Ban continued, referring to a belief that some sites are blessed by geography. "So we've known for three centuries that a great man would emerge here. Now, he's finally come."That man is Ban's cousin, Ban Ki-moon, who will take the reins of theUnited Nations as secretary general tomorrow.
He was born 62 years ago in this tiny village of about 100 residents in South Korea's rustic centre. (The village is called No 1 to distinguish it from nearby Sangdong No 2.)
selection by the UN in October, almost 2,000 practitioners of feng
shui, or pungsu in Korean, as well as a few Buddhists, have descended
on the village, trying to divine the source of its good fortune, local
officials said. A host of stories of Ban's birth and childhood have
emerged, many that make him sound like a sagacious Confucian scholar
out of Korea's dynastic past.
Geomancy - the art of
siting buildings auspiciously - and divination may seem out of place in
a nation with the world's highest internet penetration rates. But like
many countries that have experienced rapid economic growth, SouthKorea
has been grappling with how much of its traditional culture to give up
in the name of modernity.
At the same time that Ban's
appointment marks South Korea's emergence as an economic powerhouse and
robust democracy, the reaction to Ban's appointment in the place of his
birth attests to the tenacity of many old beliefs. To many local
residents, his success stands as an affirmation of those ways.
"We now live in a global
era, but we are still Koreans," said Han Sang-youn, principal of
Chungju High School, Ban's alma mater. "Mr Ban shows our values should
be kept for future generations."
The school, in the nearby
city of Chungju, where Ban and his family moved when he was three, has
begun incorporating stories of Ban's life into its curriculum, Han
said. One recounts how, after the Korean War, Ban learned......
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