[ROSTRUM]The mugunghwa are bloomingMugunghwa, the national flower of Korea, have come out splendidly on the hills of the Garden of Morning Calm. This summer was especially hot, but the flowers blossomed as always, despite the harsh conditions. Mugunghwa generally bloom in the morning and close up at night. They are only open for a short time, but numerous flowers continuously blossom in the morning, filling up the space of the flowers that closed up the night before.
The mugunghwa is called “the Rose of Sharon” in English, which is also the name of the flower through which ideal beauty is expressed in an epic love poem in the book Song of Songs in the Old Testament. It is our national flower, as beautiful as its name. The mugunghwa blossoms around this time each year, but why is it that it feels particularly refreshing this year?
I have experienced two wars so far in my life. I was born in July of the year the Korean War broke out. Actually, the first war of my life was one that my young 24-year-old mother experienced for me. Back in those days, children played hide and seek shouting out, “The mugunghwa is in full bloom,” to a ruined landscape, and that is how the summer days ended. Children sang terrible army songs like, “Continue onward, passing over comrades’ bodies” without even knowing the meaning of the words. After that, I grew into a young man, and not long after, I joined the Army and participated in the Vietnam War. That was my second experience.
I wonder how much of our history has a generation that lived without experiencing war. We don’t know how many people in the past missed and longed for the peace and prosperity we enjoy, and we don’t know what an expensive sacrifice they paid in order for us to get where we are. And we can’t know if we will lose all this again. But we live today forgetting the difficult past and important lessons like the pain of 36 years under Japanese rule, the cannon and gunshots of the Korean War and stories of people who disappeared. Hunger in the spring seems to be a story from the distant past. Stories of poor workers who went to Middle East countries to find jobs and send money to their wives and children and stories of soldiers dispatched to Vietnam all seem to be forgotten. Those who lose history also lose the lessons that go with it.
Mugunghwa is truly a precious flower. It bears the blood of a young man who died for his country on a hill somewhere, calling for his mother. Mugunghwa also bloomed today bearing drops of sweat from a laborer who tried to wash away poverty in the Middle East. In this age of loss, where history has been forgotten, “the mugunghwa is in full bloom.”
* The writer, founder-director of The Garden of Morning Calm, is a professor of horticulture at Sahmyook University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Hahn Sang-kyung