A fish eye rolls across a table in Noryangjin Fish Market in South Korea. It’s 6:00am. I’m with my close friend’s Dad. We pass by squiggly tentacles and flapping fins as he explains to me why I had to visit this place on my weeklong stay with their family.
A Professor of Sociology at Seoul National University (the “Harvard” of South Korea), Ki-Soo Eun is one of the most selfless men I’ve ever met. He wakes up at 4am, often having slept less than 4 hours, to volunteer at his church, ushering in the choir of 300 to start a 7am service. He calls his son in America at early hours. He took me to the market at 6am, despite his busy schedule because, as he said, “This market is my favorite place in Seoul. I want to share it with you.” And somehow, he has the energy and smile that makes you feel like you are all that matters.
His selflessness goes beyond what can be perceived. I learned that throughout my stay, his whole family had a group text dedicated to planning our adventures. This all happened behind my back. It was a joyful conspiracy of love.
As our day continued into night, I began to understand his philosophy behind successful relationships. He said that the East and West think about relationships differently. People in the West see relationships like a transaction. Both people contribute more value to each other’s lives than it costs. You both mutually gain. It’s logical.
People in the East see things differently. Both give a little more than they should. Sometimes, a little more than they can. They over-give.
I was skeptical. Such attitude could lead to burnout. With a wise smile, he explained, “Dan – giving to you fills me with joy. I gain as much as you do.”
The resulting difference in philosophy is that in the West you feel loved, vs with the Eun’s there’s an extra aura of love that you know they are wanting good for you even when you are not in their presence. There’s this cradle of intentionality that bathes you whenever you are with them, and without them. There is no “without” with the Euns.
I felt that with his family.
This April I’ll see Ki-Soo at his son Harry’s wedding in LA. Harry has an amazing fiancé, and I hope the sun is shining as it was at that Market in South Korea.
Congrats Harry and Noelle, you have one heck of a loving life ahead of you.