[FOUNTAIN]Save the pine trees

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[FOUNTAIN]Save the pine trees

There are Batman and Robin, Calvin and Hobbes and the pine tree and Korea. The pine tree has such a significant meaning to our country that they are virtually inseparable. In Korea, wherever one goes there are pine trees. There is even an old saying that one comes into the world under a pine tree and dies under one as well. Whether it is a tile-roofed house or a straw-roofed house, if it is in the traditional Korean style then its beams and rafters must be from a pine tree. Korean mothers bent down on their knees and prayed for their son's success under a pine tree; travelers took the occasional nap under a pine tree. The list goes on. Koreans ate the inner part of the bark of pine trees as they tried to weather famines. Finally, when one died, a coffin made of pine usually waited for them. Casting its shadow over every corner of Korean culture, it is no wonder that the second verse of our national anthem contains the word "pine tree."

In Korean culture the pine tree is a symbol of unbending integrity. Confucius said in his Analects, "Only when winter is in its full swing and temperatures drop does the pine tree fall asleep." A painting of a pine tree by Kim Jeong-hui, a renowned artist of the Joseon dynasty, shows his admiration for the tree's features and the values it stands for. Lee Yi, a famous scholar of the same period, held the pine tree in the highest regard, above the bamboo tree and the Japanese apricot tree. Seong Sam-mun, another respected scholar of the early Joseon Dynasty, cried out loud, "I should stand like a pine tree, all alone in the darkness of the night." Surely he wanted to compare his unbending loyalty and integrity with that of King Danjong, who was removed by King Sejo. In the German Christmas song, "Oh Tannenbaum" which Koreans translate as pine tree instead of fir tree, the virtues of the pine tree are preached.

Jiadao, a Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty, admired pine trees and refers to them numerous times in his work. In traditional oriental paintings, the pine tree is a popular subject, but painters agree that it is the hardest to draw.

A recently published research report forecast the end of this magnificent tree in Korea in a hundred years. The reason for the demise will be global warming. I reacted with disbelief to the prediction that the pine tree, which made its first appearance in the Paleozoic era and has thrived for billions of years, could disappear. Nevertheless, I think we have to take measures to make sure that this report's prediction, regardless of how absurd it may sound, does not become reality.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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