Kim Suk Hung was a famous patriotic general of the Koryo dynasty (918–1392). His father, on his deathbed before Kim was born, left a will to his wife Ri, saying, “I am leaving this world, but I’m relieved you’ve my child in you. When it is born a boy, I hope you will bring him up well into a warrior to make up for my failure to perform a feat for the country as a soldier. Our ancestors were all military officers, and so if you rear him as a good warrior and pillar of the country, I’d rest in peace.”Bearing his words in her mind, the widow pledged inwardly to bring up her son into a good soldier. But her son was physically week and feeble-minded and was far from interested in his studies. One winter day, Suk Hung felt very cold on his way home from the village school, so he cried loudly when he got home. His mother, Ri, took him to the well. To the wondering child she said,“Take off your clothes. I’m going to make you warm.” Then she released a bucket down the well.
Only then did the boy see what his mother was going to do. He took her by the wrist and entreated, “Mum, please don’t undress me. I’ll never cry again when I feel cold.”
Ri said in a low yet grave voice, “Then stop crying and listen to me, will you?”
Suk Hung stopped crying and nodded his head. Ri said, “On his deathbed your father asked me to raise you to be a respectable military commander for the country. But you cry in this bit of cold when you’re a boy. If your father saw you, how bitter he would feel for me! Will you obey me from now on?” From that day on, Ri was strict with her son and the boy was obedient. While teaching him to read and write, she saw to it that he never complained about the weather or his pain. She often told him, “Don’t forget your father’s last wish. Only when you get over all trials will you be able to become a brave commander.”However, when he was asleep the mother sat by his son’s bedside, fixing the quilt on him, and shedding tears out of pity for him who was growing without his father’s care. When the child was sick, she would go a long way even at night to get medicine.
At last, Suk Hung came out first in the military examination and was placed in command of a fortress, a point of strategic importance, in the northern border. Although he was now in charge of an important task of national defence, he always missed his mother who was living alone at home. So, he got a leave of absence and visited his home to celebrate his mother’s birthday and hold a memorial service for his father’s death. But his mother, refusing even to acknowledge his greeting, said sternly, “You are still a long way off the discretion.”
Suk Hung stood silent unable to understand her, when she said in tears, “You’re a general in charge of a fortress on the frontier. I’m afraid you might fail to perform your duty. I see you distracted when the foreign enemy will invade our country at any moment. How could we appease the soul of your father if we brought state affairs to ruin? Be a good commander if you want to be my son. If you are a laudable military commander, my heart will always be with you. So, you need not come to see me like a child.”
Deeply moved by his mother’s admonition, he immediately returned to his duty and defended the country with his competent command and bravery whenever the enemy made an inroad.