[Outlook]Korea’s special roseA famous Korean entrepreneur finds roses of Sharon and takes pictures of them whenever he travels overseas. He has collected photos of 400 different types of the rose. Professor Shim Kyung-ku, an expert on the flower, has developed 46 new varieties. A U.S. company named one of them Lil’ Kim and sells it on the Internet. The flower is popular so the company plans to expand its business. We now export our national flower.
One company makes soap and tea from roses of Sharon. Not only Korea but also many advanced countries, such as France, England and the Netherlands, do research on this flower. Many more types of roses of Sharon will likely be created in the future.
Koreans think of the rose of Sharon is not such a beautiful flower and is easily infested with aphids. But, in fact, the rose of Sharon is loved all around the world.
When I went to New Jersey in the United States a long time ago, I went to a big restaurant there. Surprisingly, the hallway was lined with beautiful, large roses of Sharon on both sides. In a hotel I stayed in when I was in Boston, I once happened to take the wrong elevator and ended up in a restaurant on the top floor. There I found a large rose of Sharon. I was so happy to see it, I went back to my room to get my camera and took photos.
The rose of Sharon grows on Corregido, a small island west of Manila in the Philippines, where the Battle for Corregido took place during World War II. The roses of Sharon outside of a building housing Fiat, the Italian automaker, were beautiful. There are lots of roses of Sharon in Greece as well. Hibiscus, a type of rose of Sharon, is Hawaii’s state flower and Malaysia’s national flower.
In front of Harvard University, there were two big flower shops. I used to pass by them almost everyday.
One day, both of the stores displayed roses of Sharon as if in an exhibition. I told a married Korean couple who was studying there about this, but they did not believe it, so we went to the stores together and took pictures. One day late at night, I was looking for a book on roses of Sharon in a bookstore in the neighborhood. The manager of the bookstore was happy to hear about what I was looking for and said the rose of Sharon was his favorite flower. He praised it, saying that it is good for planting in a pot, or for using as a hedge when planted along the street.
Another Korean expert on the rose of Sharon said that during the Japanese occupation, the Japanese killed beautiful specimens and left ugly ones with aphids to make Koreans hate their own national flower. Those disappeared types are now restored so there are 250 in Korea. A new type that Shim created grew from an indigenous rose of Sharon that is 100 years old. It was deep in a remote mountain so it survived the Japanese occupation.
The rose of Sharon appears in the Song of Solomon in the Bible. Shim says the rose of Sharon means a flower to offer to God. He also said that the flower appears on a silver coin used during the reign of Alexander the Great. But in some Korean versions of the Bible, the rose of Sharon is translated as the narcissus of Sharon. This should be corrected.
The fact that many Westerners like the rose of Sharon is probably related to the Bible.
People in advanced countries are familiar with and proud of their national anthems, national flags and national flowers.
We Koreans became familiar with the national flag and the anthem because of the FIFA World Cup in 2002, but we don’t feel familiar with our national flower yet. Singapore’s national flower is the orchid and the country has a beautiful orchid garden. Many foreigners visit the garden and learn more about it.
I hope that we also make a garden of roses of Sharon so Koreans get to know them better. As biotechnology has advanced so far, I hope that we can develop more beautiful types of the flower and export them so many people around the world can also appreciate the rose of Sharon.
*The writer is a professor emeritus at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Song Byung-nak