[FOUNTAIN]Blaming the skyThe historical book “Shan Hai Jing,” or “Classic of the Seas and Mountains,” records that Gun stole one of God’s treasures for humans, the Yi Rang, or growing soil. The lump of soil multiplied endlessly and could make mountains and cliffs in a second. With the growing soil, Gun built dykes to control the river. While his attempt was briefly successful, the country was afflicted with great floods again when God became furious and took away the growing soil.
Baby boy Yu came out of Gun’s dead body. Four days after he got married, Yu was assigned by Emperor Shun to take on the job of flood control. Yu was different from his father, Gun. He wore iron boots to climb mountains and measured every stream and river around the country with a ruler. He opened up waterways to divert water. He did not forcibly block the excess water but opened breakthroughs. Finally, the water route was under control. For his impressive accomplishments, Yu was given the throne. He started the Xia Dynasty.
Flood has two faces. It was a blessing to ancient Egypt but a catastrophe in Mesopotamia. In Egypt, taxes would be raised when there was a flood. The ancient Egyptians had an accurate way to forecast floods, and by timing their farming to the flooding of the Nile, they enjoyed great harvests without having to use any manure. During the reign of Pharaoh Djoser, the Nile did not flood for seven years and countless Egyptians died of starvation.
Floods were very common in Mesopotamia, which had many myths about natural disasters, including the story of Noah’s Ark. The precipitation in the rainy season was 10 times that of the dry season. Floods were hard to predict, and the Mesopotamians had a hard time coordinating their farming with the climate. During years of major flooding, the Mesopotamians often had crops rot.
Korea has suffered a flood again.
In 2002, Typhoon Rusa caused more than 5 trillion ($5.3 billion) won in damage, and 184 people were killed or missing. In 2003, Typhoon Maemi resulted in no less damage. While the government prepared an eight-year flood control with a budget of 43 trillion won, the once promising project petered out eventually. After the flood season passed, the flood control program lost priority to other concerns, such as resolving social polarization and administrative capital projects.
Gun wished to control floods so ardently that he stole a treasure of the heavens.
The government is forever blaming the sky when there is much more they can and should be doing.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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