[Viewpoint]Hang on to hopeSome events make us feel that the world is an unfair place. Someone might make his best effort to make a decent living, but unavoidably, tragedy strikes. The tragedy is so overwhelming that one cannot overcome it with willpower or through hard work. We call this fate.
However, I am not sure if we can call Choi Jin-sil’s death fateful. She was a hardworking woman. She was raised in a financially challenged family but became the most popular actress of our time. She endeavored to make a healthy living even after her rise to stardom. In the entertainment industry where lavish lifestyles are common, she was recognized by the government for her savings. She went through a painful divorce but made a successful comeback. Was such a strong-willed actress defeated by fate this time?
In the Canadian Rocky Mountains you will find desolate spots where trees are dead in the middle of thick woods. These are where avalanches rushed down. A tree strives to grow because if it becomes smaller than the trees around it, it won’t get the sunlight it needs.
However, regardless of their strenuous efforts to survive, trees will be swept away, broken, pressed and killed if an avalanche happens to pass by. It is unfair to the trees, but death by avalanche might be their fate. There is no guarantee that an avalanche will not attack a person or a nation.
However, unlike trees, human beings and nations can prepare for and avoid avalanches. Machiavelli was deeply interested in the fates of nations and peoples. In chapter 25 of “The Prince,” Machiavelli compared fate to a flood. “So it happens with fortune, who shows her power where valor has not prepared to resist her, and thither she turns her forces where she knows that barrier and defenses have not been raised to constrain her.”
Fate might be unavoidable, but depending on the capacity of the person involved, the force with which it strikes may vary. In Choi Jin-sil’s case, she might not have killed herself if she was internally prepared to fight off false accusations and online speculation, no matter how harsh. If she had prayed and meditated instead of drinking with her colleagues that night, the power of fate may not have prevailed.
The same goes for a country. The financial crisis in the United States will put pressure on Korea regardless of Korea’s fault or will. We might be minutes away from being struck by an avalanche. However, if we are fully prepared, we can avoid disaster.
The problem is that fate does not take the same approach every time. It could be an avalanche, a typhoon, a fire or a financial crisis. Therefore, we should respond and prepare accordingly. However, the more foolish a person is, the more he clings to past success. For example, it is backward to release precious dollars as the value of the dollar rises. It is urgent to secure more foreign currency reserves.
When you carefully investigate avalanche sites, you will find traces of a miracle. New sprouts burst out of broken branches and ruined grass. The avalanche might have swept an area clean, but roots and trunks survived to bring life back. Even a big tree will die and decompose if its life is lost. However, even a small weed can overcome snowstorms and blossom. This is the secret of life. If Choi Jin-sil did not give up on her life, a new way might have waited for her.
Choi Jin-sil killed herself probably because she thought life was hopeless. Hope is another name for life. As long as we have hope, we can endure any hardship. We don’t know why the good and innocent have to suffer. However, if we have hope that bigger success and joy await after suffering and trials, we can overcome an ordeal.
Because Koreans had hope that the Republic of Korea would gain independence from the Japanese, they survived in Manchuria’s harsh winter. Korea used to be one of the poorest countries in the world, but we achieved prosperity because we had hope. Koreans cashed in gold during the 1997 financial crisis because we knew of a greater hope. When the country is in crisis, we need be prepared to fight off fate. We should never give up our hope for the future.
*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang- keuk