[FOUNTAIN]Pigheaded peopleDuring China's Warring States period, which ran from 475 to 221 B.C., Zhao Kuo lived in the state of Zhao. When another state, Qin, invaded Zhao, Zhao Kuo went to battle as a commander instead of Lian Po, a renowned general. In that battle, Zhao Kuo followed the military strategy that his father, once a famous general, had written about in a book. In the end, though, Zhao Kuo suffered a crushing defeat.
This story comes from a history recorded in the book "Shih Chi." A stubborn person like Zhao Kuo is likened to playing a geomungo, a traditional harp with six strings and bridges glued to the base, which cause the instrument to produce only a single tone.
An incorrigible person is often called a byeokchangho in Korean. The word takes its root from a large and obstinate cow bred in Byeokdong and Changseong, North Pyeongan province. These days the meaning of the word is also used to describe a man who is brusque to women.
In the East and the West, a stubborn individual is often compared to an animal. In Korea, we consider bulls as symbols of obstinancy, and in English- speaking countries, mules are seen as the incarnation of obstinancy. English expressions like "as stubborn as a mule" or "mulish" designate a stubborn individual. Germans think goats are more stubborn than other animals and use bockig to describe stubbornness. Bockig originated from bock, a German word for goat.
Some people are born stubborn, but it is said people become more stubborn when they get older. As mental and physical abilities deteriorate, people attempt to make judgments based on their past experiences and memories, which often brings trouble.
But stubbornness is not always associated with negativity. When we often speak of "stubbornness of the Choi," we mean a person who does not play cheap tricks, and who sticks to a principle for a long time. Meister, which means master craftsman, is an honored title in Germany. A meister is so passionate about his work that he is typically filled with stubborn pride.
Criticism is pouring in over the cabinet reshuffle that occurred this week. President Kim Dae-jung showed his stubbornness by appointing his close aides to key positions. In fact, his stubbornness has long been well known. If it were not for his "worthy stubbornness" when he was fighting for democracy as an opposition leader, he would not be president. Nonetheless, it's difficult to view his recent stubbornness as worthwhile. It is closer to egocentricity.
The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik