[FOUNTAIN]Are these 3 Kims owls?A queen of a state during the spring and autumn periods in China had two sons. She favored the young one over the older one. She persistently told the king to make the younger son his successor. But the first son became the king and the queen incited the second son to stage a coup. The first son became so furious that he swore that he would never meet his mother again until they crossed the river of life and death.
A wise man visited the new king and gave him two owls, saying “An owl cannot even see a huge mountain during the daytime, but it can distinguish a single strand of hair. It is good at seeing minutiae, but blind to large objects. When young, an owl grows up with food its mother provides. But when the owl grows up, it pecks at its mother and eats her.” Deeply moved by this story, the new king dug in the ground and made a river of life and death. He saw his mother there.
In both China and Korea, owls are regarded as bad omens. A crow feeds its mother when she gets old, while an owl kills its mother when she gets old. When the head of a beheaded person was hung up in a public place to set an example, the name of the head included a Chinese letter meaning an owl. There are many expressions using an owl which symbolize dullness, greed and cowardice.
It is just the opposite in Western culture. An owl is a friend of Minerva and gives advice to the goddess. Even today, an owl symbolizes wisdom. In a book titled “Ping,” an owl serves as a mentor to a frog who is in search of a new pond. In another book called “The Ant and the Elephant,” an owl gives wisdom to an ant.
The other day, Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook gave a crystal owl as a present to Ban Ki-moon, the next Secretary General of the United Nations. She said she hoped that he would overcome difficulties wisely as an owl symbolizes wisdom.
The German thinker, Georg Hegel, wrote that the owl of Minerva spread its wings at dusk. That means to analyze things after the dust has fallen to the ground. In politics, however, that is a belated act. Prime Minister Han has reportedly collected 100 owl figures. But perhaps her owl collection is solely for decoration, instead of being messengers of wisdom.
Three Kims who have disappeared from the public eye have now resurfaced. Recently, the incumbent president met with former President Kim Dae-jung. Former President Kim Young-sam and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil are to meet this evening. They might become like owls that spread their wings at dawn instead of at dusk.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin-kook
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