Lawmakers eclipsed

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Lawmakers eclipsed

Let’s say that the Earth is a ball the size of a grape. The Moon is then a crimson glory vine about 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) from the Earth. The Sun is as big as a person in diameter, 50 meters from the Earth. Around 200 meters from the Earth is Jupiter, the size of a melon. Uranus and Neptune are the size of lemons and they are 1 kilometer and 1.5 kilometers away from Earth, respectively.

The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon and the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 400 times longer than the distance between the Earth and the Moon. This is why the Sun and the Moon appear the same size, more or less, from the Earth.

The Earth revolves around the Sun, and the Moon orbits around the Earth. When the Sun, the Moon and the Earth lie on a line, an eclipse occurs; that is, the Moon covers part of or all of the Sun. Yesterday, the shadow of the Moon covering the Sun was cast on part of our planet and around 3 billion people on Earth could see a total eclipse.

The average distance between the Earth and the Moon is 380,000 kilometers. It is easy to imagine how far that is when considering that the average altitude of an international airplane is about 10 kilometers. Nonetheless, the Moon is still the closest celestial body to the Earth, and it has long been an object of study and observation. The Moon is the only body outside of Earth that humans have walked on. This year is the 40th anniversary of the United States’ spaceship Apollo 11’s moon landing.

Korea falls behind when it comes to the space race. The U.S., Russia, Japan, China and India are currently mulling lunar ventures.

Historically, Korea’s concept of the Earth’s position in the universe has lagged behind other societies. The Chinese word for globe, diqiu, was formed to express that the land we are living on is the shape of a globe. In his 1605 book, “Qiankun Tiyi” (On the Structure of Heaven and Earth), the Italian missionary Mateo Ricci, who lived in China, explained the word in great detail.

But the intellectual communities on the Korean Peninsula responded much later. Choi Han-gi (1803-1877) was the first Korean who used the term jigu, the Korean word for diqiu, or globe. He suggested that the Earth revolves around the Sun, in a book he wrote some 250 years after Ricci penned his book on the universe.

On July 22, the same day the fabulous astronomical event took place, there was a brutal fight in the National Assembly of Korea. Some politicians are obsessed with a two-dimensional world and only want to win a tug of war in it.

The unlimited three-dimensional world of the universe that other countries are heading for is still far away for our political communities. Did our politicians even watch the eclipse? Do they even know the difference between two-dimensional and three-dimensional?


The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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

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