[FOUNTAIN]A burning issue

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[FOUNTAIN]A burning issue

To see candles decorating a dinner table at a Western restaurant is a common sight. At this time of year, many homeowners in the West light candles as well. In fact, a visitor to a home there often inspires lighting candles for a meal. The consumption of candles is great all over the world. A department store or a supermarket usually has a candle section, and there are shops specializing in candles. In those shops, hundreds of kinds of candles exist. Furthermore, using candles as artistic works has grown in popularity.

Lighting candles is probably the best way to produce a sentimental mood in a cafe or bar. However dazzling and bright electric lights are, they cannot match candles for creating cozy and elegant moods. Moreover, lighting a candle purifies the surrounding air. Candles are said to eliminate cigarette and food odors.

Candles have been a symbol of brightness and warmth for centuries. They were first developed in ancient Egypt and China as a means of illumination. But they soon became an essential item in religious ceremonies and other events that were related to human sadness or happiness. In such events as weddings and funerals, and in such places as churches, candles today are a must. Christians regard candles as a symbol of Jesus Christ, a light unto the world. In Buddhism, candles are considered the symbol of the Buddha's wisdom that enlightens people's spiritual darkness, or a beam of hope that leads to the next world. Thus, candles are among three consecrated offerings at a Buddhist altar, along with flowers and incense.

But the image of a candle is not always warm and gentle. Think about candlelight demonstrations. Even though candlelight demonstrations are a nonviolent and peaceful means of expressing opinions, they are strong forms of protest. One example is the candlelight demonstration in East Germany in 1989 that led to a nationwide demonstration and eventually to the reunification of Germany.

South Koreans recently saw a candlelight demonstration in the streets of Seoul that memorialized two teenage girls who were crushed beneath a U.S Army vehicle, and protested the acquittal of the two U.S. soldiers who drove that vehicle. Even though it was a peaceful demonstration, the message was powerful. Let's light candles in our homes tonight as we sit down for dinner. Doing so will likely bring some comfort.

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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