Once upon a time， in a small mountain village a young man was living with his aged father， wife and little son. He was so devoted to his aged and widowed father that he was known to everyone in his village and neighboring hamlets as a filial son （hyoja）。
One day his father fell seriously ill. The young man， with help of his understanding and equally devoted wife， had been doing everything he could with no pains spared in nursing his gravely ill father， but there was no sign of recovery. Since there was no doctor available， the young couple continued to care for him day and night as best they could. But finally deciding that there was very little human mortals can do， they offered a prayer to the Spirit of Heaven： “All mighty Spirit of Heaven （hananim）， be merciful to our father. Please， help our father recover from his grave illness.” They rose early every morning before dawn and kept praying to heaven for help.
One morning， after their daily prayer， the couple were about to go into the patient's room， when they heard the clapping sounds of a monk's wooden bell coming from the front gate area. The young man went to the gate and found an old， silver-haired Buddhist friar monk begging for offerings to Buddha. Though he himself was destitute， the young man offered the monk a bowlful of raw rice. The monk seemed satisfied and， examining the young man's face， he said， “Buddha bless you， Amitaba kwansyeiuym bodhisattva！ By the way， young man， you look so pale and gravely worried. You look troubled. Could you tell me what troubles you？”
Thinking that it was no use talking about it， the young man was about to turn around to walk back into the house. But as he turned around， he said in a faint voice， “No use talking about it， Priest.”
“Spare me a moment， young man，” insisted the monk， “what troubles you so much I do not know， but， pray， let me hear about it.You can never tell if I may be of some help. So， tell me about what worries you so much.”
The young man thought the monk was right. So， he told him what had been happening until then.
“Ummm， no wonder you are so worried. I am very sorry to hear that your father is so ill.”
“Priest， please tell me if there is anything， anything whatsoever， my wife and I could do to help my father regain his health.”
“Hmmm …… Alas， I am afraid， his illness is terminal. But ……”
“But what， Priest？ You seem to know of some way. Please， tell me，” begged the young man， holding the monk by the sleeve.
“Well， there is only one way to save him， but I am afraid you could not do it，” said the monk and he was about to stroll away.
“Please， don't leave without showing me what that only way is，” begged the young man， dashing to the front of the monk.
“The medicine I have in mind can be obtained neither from mountains nor from the sea.”
“Where， then， could I get it， Priest？”
“It is not difficult， in a sense， to obtain it. But no man without unparalleled devotion to his parents could go through what is required.” Stressing this， the monk started walking away.
The young man would not let him go without hearing what the monk had in mind. He stood in his way and begged and begged. The monk was still very hesitant. But finally he told the young man that the only medicine is the broth made from boiling the young man's only son in water for a long time.
And no sooner did the monk say this than he disappeared like wind. The young man， aghast and dumbfounded， stood there for quite a while like an immovable post. “Oh， my own child？ My only son？ How could I？ How could I do such a thing？ How could one even suggest that？” The young man， now even more worried and confused， dragged his feet into the house. In a trembling voice he told his wife what had been told by the monk. “What should we do？ Oh， what should we do？ How could anyone do such a thing？ How could we do such an awful thing？” repeated he in a mournful voice.
It was painful for the man to look at his wife trying to control her agony. Finally， she calmly suggested： “If that helps father regain his health， we ought to go through with it. Once father dies， he will be gone forever， but we can still hope to have more children in the future.” He was moved and agreed with his wife. And they decided to follow the monk's suggestion.
Soon， dusk settled in and their son returned from Sudang， a private tutorial school. The young couple felt heartbroken， thinking that the boy had to be sacrificed. But they thought there was no other way. “Son， grandfather is fast asleep now. Why don't you come into the kitchen for supper？” The innocent child followed his mother into the kitchen and became the medicine for his grandfather.
It was well into the night. The young man went into his father's room with a bowl of the medicine broth. He helped him up and drink the medicine. “Whatever kind of medicine it is， it is so palatable. Would you let me have a little more of it？” The man then drank a few more bowlfuls and sank into a deep sleep. That night the old man slept well.
Early on the morning of the following day， the young man's father got up completely recovered as if he had never been ill at all. The young couple were so happy. On the other hand， they also felt painfully grieved over the loss of their son.
It was that evening when they heard what sounded like their son's voice. “Mommy， I'm home！” without a shred of doubt， that was her son's voice. Then the boy came into the house and said， “Mother， I'm sorry. Last night I stayed at the tutor's house. He told me to stay because it was too late to walk home alone in the dark.”
The boy was their son. They could swear that he was their boy. But …… but how could he be？ They were puzzled and even frightened. “No， it couldn't be my boy. That must be a ghost！ Now I am being punished，” thought the young man， suddenly feeling gooseflesh all over his body.
“Look， boy， I am sure you are mistaken. You must have been lost. Where do you live？ I will take you to your house，” said his wife.
“Mother， I do not understand what you are saying. I am your son！” The boy was at the verge of crying.
“You couldn't be our son. We don't have a son like you.”
“Mother， is that …… is that really true？”
The boy was standing there speechless with his jaw hanging down. Then， with composure regained， he tried to show that he was their son. But the young couple would not believe him. Feeling rejected and sad， the boy finally made a suggestion. “Now， if you don't believe me， then you should go to the tutor and ask him about what I said to you.”
The couple thought it was a good idea. The young man ran like the wind over to the tutor's house which was a few mountains away. He asked the tutor whether his son had stayed with him the night before. The tutor apologetically explained why he had let the boy stay with him. It was quite apparent then that the boy was telling the truth. “Then who in the world was that boy we sacrificed？” The young man had no explanation. Still puzzled and even feeling bewitched， he hurried back home.
That night， the young man had a strange dream， in which he saw that same old monk. “Priest， thanks to you， my father has completely recovered.” “No， young man， you owe me nothing for it. You owe it to your wife and yourself——to your filial piety and devotion. To test your devotion and sincerity， I sent you a one-thousand-year old wild ginseng disguised in the appearance of your son. Go and see. You will see the dregs of ginseng where you thought you buried your child's remains.” And the old monk disappeared. The young man awoke from the dream and went straight to his child's tomb. As he dug， he found nothing but the dregs of boiled ginseng. The young couple and their son， embracing one another， danced and danced through the rest of the night.
Ever since then， even the peskiest wild birds and animals did not harm the crops raised by the filial young couple.
A young couple with devoted filial piety save their hopelessly ailing father with the help of the Mountain Spirit. Moved by their selfless devotion， the Mountain Spirit disguised as a monk visit the young couple to make one last test of their devotion. Convinced of their genuine devotion， the Spirit sends them a one-thousand-year old wild ginseng， which， discounting the age of the plant， has been popularly regarded by Koreans as what comes close to cure-all and tonic medicinal plant. The moral in this story is a simple one： do your utmost to your parents. Filial piety has been believed to be one of the basic and supreme virtues of human relations， without which one is not likely to love， honor or respect other human beings in a larger human community. This belief is based on the Confucian moral teachings. Love is the bond between parents and their children. Parents are to do things in the best interest of their children， and children， to express love for their parents by doing things for them as far as they can， i.e.， to practice filial piety. This relationship demands self-sacrifice on both parts， putting the other's interest before one's own. Such an emphasis on the parent-child bond characterized by unconditional love derives from the belief that children are extension of their parents and owe their very existence to their parents. This bond is natural， not contrived or artificial， and also closer than all other human relations. Therefore， if parents and children cannot love each other， it is believed， they are not going to able or disposed to love any other human being， be he a relative， a neighbor， a friend， a spouse or a stranger. In this sense， parent-child relations are most basic of all human relations， which begin at the very starting point of one's life. This is what is emphasized in this story.