[FOUNTAIN]'Tis the season for migration

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[FOUNTAIN]'Tis the season for migration

Migratory birds have always been considered mysterious creatures; efforts to understand the mysteries of migration began in ancient times. Recently many countries have begun banding the legs and outlining the migratory routes of such birds. But modern science has not yet succeeded in completely deciphering the mystery of migrations by birds. Until recently the most plausible theory was that migratory birds find their way guided by the sun. That was the conclusion of Gustav Kramer, a German ornithologist, after he looked at the habits of gray starlings, but this theory did not explain how some migratory birds traveled at night. Then scientists developed a theory that birds navigate by using the constellations. There was also a hypothesis that some birds can sense the earth's magnetic fields, but none of the theories have been proven.

Seagulls from the North Pole, which migrate the longest distance of all birds, fly more than 20,000 kilometers from the North Pole to the South Pole. It is astonishing that the seagulls can fly to a correct spot unless they are sabotaged by unusual weather, such as typhoons. All these man-made theories are humble in the face of these natural wonders.

Migratory birds are traveling now. Winter ducks arrived in late autumn and leave here from late February to mid-March for their Siberian breeding grounds. When the weather gets warmer, migratory birds that flew "south of the river" will fly back to Korea. Although the river in question is the Yangtze River in an old Chinese phrase, the summer migratory birds actually fly as far as Australia.

Because the Korean Peninsula is located in between the tropical and arctic zones where the birds migrate and has a good food supply for them, it is a popular rest stop for migratory fowl. In Korea, only 57 types of birds are resident year-round, but 283 species of migratory birds visit here.

There are also many "migratory humans" in Korea. As the political season begins, politicians are starting their full-scale migration.

Lee Won-jong, governor of North Chungcheong province and once a member of the United Liberal Democrats, recently joined the Grand National Party. "The upshot of defection and betrayal will be as wretched as pain going deep through his bones," somebody warned. "Opportunistic behavior has degraded a province of fidelity to a province of treachery," someone else criticized. But how many politicians are there who stick to their principles and can dare throw stones at migratory politicians?

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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