Seeing the light

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Seeing the light

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“Darkness comes silently/ If night comes like a traveler/ I will light a candle to burn the loneliness.”

These lyrics are from Korean singer Jeong Tae-chun’s song “Candlelight” from the 1980s.

The poet Shin Seok-jeong’s poem “Candlelight,” published in the 1930s, strikes a similar emotional chord. It is the poet’s emotional search and longing for a “mother” and a “far-away country” in order to escape the dark reality of Japanese rule. One lights a candle when searching for truth in the darkness.

In religion, lighting a flame is a holy gesture. The Buddhist story of a poor woman who was able to light her lamp by praying to Buddha Sakyamuni is well known. When lamps of the rich burned out as the night passed, the poor woman’s lamp still shone in the darkness. Her faith kept the lamp alive.

Sakyamuni’s last word was about the light as well: “Keep one’s lamp bright the light of truth.”

The Jeondeung Temple in Ganghwa Island evokes a sense of enlightenment when one hears its name. The name means that a person who has mastered the highest degree of wisdom should convey his awakening to others. Light leads us to see things clearly and and correctly. Light helps us to overcome the darkness and maintain hope. In Buddhism, it is a symbol of neutrality, when one is able to see things without prejudice.

The U.S. beef import issue does not seem to be subsiding easily. If we follow the rule of neutrality, people who light candles should look at the other side of the insecurity brought on by the fear of what could end up on their tables. It is an inevitable, strategic choice of Korea to open its doors to beef imports. In addition to criticizing the Blue House, we should remember that it has only been three months since the new administration was inaugurated. We should therefore refrain from marching, candles in hand, to the Blue House, or hastily shouting for the president to step down. If we don’t handle this wisely, the light will become a calamity.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yoo Kwang-jong [kjyoo@joongang.co.kr]

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