[OUTLOOK]Of Marathon Victories and Unifications

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[OUTLOOK]Of Marathon Victories and Unifications

This year's spring in particular had yellow sand much more than any other year. Nevertheless, early this morning I saw azalea and forsythia blossoms in scattered clumps while climbing a mountain near my house. The blossoms were very shiny and looked up at the smiling sun through pine needles. I felt myself muttering, "Today is definitely going to be great."

When I arrived home from my early morning mountain climb, I got the news. Of course, this is what I have been waiting for.

Lee Bong -ju grabbed the championship cup of the Boston Marathon.

Several different incidents went through my mind at the same time as soon as I heard the news.

Needless to say, the first incident was Suh Yun-bok's victory at the same marathon in 1947. We were carried away with the emotion when that news arrived long ago.

Mr. Suh's triumph occurred when the division of the nation by the North and the South was becoming unavoidable as the U.S.-Soviet Joint Commission on Korea failed to agree on the establishment of a unified Korean government. This happened after the brief joy of liberation from Japanese colonial rule, and had driven the whole population of Seoul into a joyful outburst of celebrations.

Seoul was not the only place that cheered Mr. Suh. The whole nation in every quarter of the Korean Peninsula was ecstatic for several nights in a row. We could not help but shout for joy. Maybe we shouted even louder back then because we could not shout as much as we wanted when Son Ki-jung won the marathon at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Mr. Son won as an athlete representing Japan, for we were under Japanese colonial rule then.

The whole nation was truly shouting at Mr. Suh's victory to the extent that I, a teenager living in the North, could hear the news. I remember my friends and I whispering news of his victory to one another. That day seems just like yesterday.

Mr. Lee's victory does not seem ordinary to someone like me who has lived for the last 50 some years right in the middle of a divided Korean Peninsula.

The Korean War broke out three years after Mr. Suh's victory in the Boston Marathon. Can Mr. Lee's grabbing the victory cup again after 54 years be considered a signal that the knot that ties North and South Korean relations is starting to untangle?

Can this victory have to do with the fact that "the moving forces in the mountains and rivers" became favorable to our nation's future after last year's June 15 South-North Joint Communique?

I also thought of the former West Germany, which won the World Cup just before the country became unified with the former East Germany. Even the incidents then seemed to be the great works done by the moving forces of mountains and rivers in Germany, not done by the people from the two Germannies.

Maybe the victory at the World Cup was the very start of good omens for Germany's unification.

There must be more than a few people out there who would laugh at this kind of reasoning. Some might even say that I am not making sense because I am growing older. However, I am going to keep saying what I have to say, even if others do not like it.

I dare say that we should not be capricious about how things are now going between the North and the South. Be patient and take on the relationship between the North and the South with a view of the longer term.

You would by chance hear the big sound of mountains and rivers as I hear it. I think Mr. Lee's victory is just relaying the big sound, or news from our mountains and rivers to me.

Finally, I thought of the current relationship between North and South Korea as well as the U.S.-North Korea relations, the relationships that definitely got on the bumpy road after the Bush administration was sworn in.

However, I am one of those people who is optimistic about inter-Korean relations, and North Korea- U.S. relations if they are seen in the longer term.

At the moment, all the businesses involving North Korea, including Hyundai's Mount Kumkang Tourism Project, are not experiencing smooth times.

However, a bright clear day can get suddenly cloudy. That is quite natural. In the same vein I don't think we have to run about in confusion as the weather changes day by day. What can the United States do about us? After all, they are separated from Korea by the Pacific Ocean.

I believe deep in my heart that the matters for this country and its mountains and rivers will be decided by the people and the "moving forces" of this land. That's why I really feel proud of Mr. Lee's victory in the Boston Marathon.

However, I don't think Mr. Lee's victory will lead us to an abrupt unification as the World Cup victory of the former West Germany seemed to lead them right to their unification. We will have our own way to unification, as things got going there in their way.

Unification should never be hurried.


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The writer is a novelist and a member of the National Academy of Arts.


by Lee Ho-chul

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