[FOUNTAIN]Lessons from the water ox

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[FOUNTAIN]Lessons from the water ox

The area where the Changjiang River and the Huaiha River meet has long been called the land of Wu. The Kingdom of Wu during the period of the Three Kingdoms had its base in the Jingsu region, today’s Nanjing. The region is notorious for its summer heat, and Nanjing is referred to as one of the “Three Furnaces” of China. The “ox of Wu” inhabits the region. It is a kind of a water ox usually found in the paddy fields of southern China. It has a habit of wallowing in water or mud to ward off the summer heat. The Chinese made up a story from this habit of the ox of Wu, which always shelters itself from the blazing sun.
There was an official who used to be sensitive to cold. The cold wind from the north made him shiver like a leaf. One cold winter day, he entered the court to have an audience with the emperor. When he felt the wind through the glass window, he could not help but tremble in front of the emperor. The emperor asked him why he was quivering, and when he explained his sensitivity to cold, the emperor jeered, “Don’t you know the wind does not come through the glass?” The official justified himself: “I am the ox of Wu that pants even when it sees the moon.” The story appears in “Shinshuo Xinyu,” or “New Tales of the World.”
The ox of Wu suffers so much from the scorching heat in the summer that when the moon rises at night, it gets terrified, for it mistakes the moon for the sun.
It describes a human psychological scenario when one feels anxious and uneasy when facing an uncomfortable situation similar to one that inflicted damage in the past.
These days, Koreans find themselves in a panic similar to what the ox of Wu experienced. Even in the aftermath of North Korea’s nuclear test, a former president who had promoted the Sunshine Policy continues to insist that his policy had been proper. The sunshine’s effect on the North Korean policy needs to be reviewed thoroughly, but the president and his predecessor do not seem to care. On the contrary, they reprove the ox of Wu for being alarmed too soon.
However, there is another grave concern at the moment. The former president pulled out the regionalism card when he visited his hometown in “Honam.” That signals the return of regional confrontation. The ruling and opposition parties are ready to join in the regional confrontation. Many citizens cannot shake off concern and uneasiness as we witness the revival of the regional antagonism that drove Korea into division and discord through the last three decades. I wonder if the politicians understand how the citizens’ panting is turning into groaning.

*The writer is the Beijing correspondent
of the JoongAng Ilbo

by Yoo Kwang-jong
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