[FOUNTAIN]January shows power of hopeAn earthquake near the Tagus River in Portugal on Jan. 26, 1531, killed around 30,000 people. On Jan. 26, 2001, an earthquake in Gujarat near the India-Pakistan border resulted in 25,000 casualties. On Jan. 25, 1939, an earthquake in Chillan, Chile, took 28,000 lives. On that date in 1348 in Austria, 5,000 people died in an earthquake.
January is truly a cruel month. More than 830,000 people died in an earthquake in Shaanxi, China, on Jan. 23, 1556, the highest death toll ever from an earthquake. On that same date in 1909, 5,500 people died from an earthquake in Iran. Six years later, on Jan. 13, 1915, a temblor in Italy killed 29,980 people, and two years later on Jan. 21, 1917, 15,000 suffered the same fate.
According to global statistics on catastrophes, a disproportionately large number of quakes strike in late January. As we remember, a quake hit Kobe, Japan on Jan. 17, 1995, killing more than 6,430 people.
Minor earthquakes, with fewer than 1,000 casualties, also have happened in January. A volcanic eruption in Congo, Africa, last week left 100,000 people missing and an estimated 40 confirmed dead. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes and are searching for their families. This is just very sad. Luckily - though not lucky enough - the volcanic eruption did not lead to an earthquake.
These tragedies, taking place right after the New Year, lead us to question the meaning of human existence. The so-called disaster movies commonly ask about the nature of human beings. Many of the survivors of the earthquake seven years ago in Japan committed suicide because they were unable to overcome their loneliness.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the biggest difficulties of the families of the deceased were isolation and anxiety. This reaction in Japan seven years ago and in the United States after the September attacks led to a boom for businesses that help people meet.
On the Internet, matchmaking services experienced a similar boom. Their motto was that life is short so let's create hope and love for one another.
Despite the fact that January is a month of catastrophes, the reason that January is not called a cruel month is that people start out the New Year full of hope.
People should learn to live with hope, without being too discouraged, despite unexpected adversity.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo