[VIEWPOINT]Year of the rooster a positive signThe new year of Eulyoo has dawned. Everyone may have his or her own deep emotions, but I think it could be different according to each generation. The year of Eulyoo ― isn’t it the same name as the year when our nation experienced the joy of liberation, putting an end to the gloomy period of Japanese colonial rule? Sixty years have already passed since our liberation.
The year “Eulyoo” is the year of the rooster according to the Oriental zodiac. Records tell us that our ancestors had thought highly of the rooster for a long time while leading a life together with roosters. This is simply proven by the fact that the rooster appears in the founding stories of the ancient Korean kingdom of Silla. What we are most familiar with is the fact that they thought that the rooster had the power to call for the dawn or light. Not until the rooster crowed did the sun break and the dawn come. In the year of Eulyoo in 1945, all the roosters in our country cried out in unison to drive the night out of the land of Korea, which was asleep in a long, long nightmare, and to usher in the new daybreak. As a result, the sun broke and the dawn came and light poured down on this land so that we could taste the joy of the restoration of light, or independence. Learning a lesson from our history of paying the high price of various trials over the past 60 years, I hope we will keep cherishing the dawn, or the glorious light, that the roosters of our land called in at daybreak this morning.
The rooster’s crowing not only calls in light but also drives out evil spirits. With a long crow at the top of its lung, the rooster used to drive out ghosts wandering about villages in the country with ill intentions under the cover of darkness. My earnest wish is that the rooster’s crowing at dawn on New Year’s Day expelled sundry evil spirits involved in all kinds of factional wrangling and political strife currently dividing the country.
Dongguksesigi, a book on traditional Korean customs, records that on lunar New Year’s Day, the rooster and the tiger were drawn and hung on the wall in respectable homes. This was because people believed that the rooster had the power of exorcising demons. Statistics announced yesterday by the National Statistical Office says that 458 couples per day get divorced now in our country. That is to say, homes are broken at random. I wish every home would hang a picture of the rooster on the wall to expel demons far away that try to destroy sweet homes.
In fact, the rooster and the hen stood for the harmony of the home and love between the couple. The rooster has a habit of fighting its enemy at the risk of its life to protect the hen and the chicks. The hen raises chickens, embracing or taking them to places with great care. When the rooster finds something to eat, he calls for the hen and the chicks to feed them, and then eagerly sets out for other places to find food again. The scene in which the rooster and the hen have a secret talk, clucking in soft voices, is the ideal conjugal harmony. May the divorce rate drop drastically in this year of the rooster!
The rooster also symbolized wealth and honor. The rooster was called “a man wearing a crown.” In other words, the rooster meant a young noble who obtains a government position.
This analogy came from the similar sound of the Korean words “byusel,” meaning government position, and “byut,” meaning the crest of the rooster. The crest represented riches and fame when it was drawn on the canvas together with the rooster’s comb because they were similar with their red color and upright rim.
Come to think of it, the rooster seems to suggest, as if pinpointing, the goals we should set and achieve for this year. Above all, let’s do it diligently. Let’s brace ourselves to cry out at dawn. Let’s discern the time, and accordingly, take what should be taken and discard what should be discarded.
Let’s protect our country and homes with our own strength. Let’s keep them at the risk of our lives. Let’s overcome the division with harmony and tolerance.
Let’s gather our strength and wisdom to achieve wealth and honor. But we should have a firm belief that “all power in this world comes from morality.” Then, every matter will be set straight and everything will be in its proper place.
* The writer is the president of Sungkyunkwan, the National Center for Confucianism and Confucian Societies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Choi Gun-duk