This ain’t no dog and pony show

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This ain’t no dog and pony show


People love races. No matter who the competitors are, there is always a bit of drama, suspense and disappointment.

There is a Chinese phrase that illustrates this well: “jang-dan-sang-gyo,” meaning “that which is long and that which is short will be decided only when the two are compared.”

Some of the most popular races involve sports cars and horses. They both run fast, they’re expensive and they’re loved by women.

But there is something about horses, and horse racing, that really pulls us in. Perhaps we are in awe of the animals’ sheer power. Or maybe it’s their speed. In any case, maybe that’s why we pronounce the word “mal” in Korean with a long “a” when it means “language,” and why we shorten the “a” when it means “horse.”

Horse racing in Korea began with the establishment of the Joseon Racing Club in 1922. After the Korean War and Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, horse racing went into full swing at the racetrack on Ttuk Island in 1954. The horse that swept all of the prizes in the 1970s was A1, who got his name from the marking on his front leg. At the height of his career, A1 had 25 consecutive wins.

Oddly enough, the names of the horses that won grand prizes in that era matched the situation of the times. During the Kim Young-sam administration, the winner was always Good News. During Kim Dae-jung’s term it was New Strong Man and All Together. And Subsidy was the big winner during Roh Moo-hyun’s tenure. Despite its original meaning, Subsidy’s name was taken to mean “sorry for losing,” following the Korean pronunciation, “sub-sub-ha-ji.” Now it’s Strongman in Partnership’s turn. He’s won the grand prize two years in a row.

There are also races of another type at Jeju Racing Park every weekend, even though they aren’t nearly as successful as horse racing.

It’s pony racing.

There are two races there. One is among Jeju ponies, which are designated as Natural Treasure No. 347. The other is among Halla ponies, in which all horses born on Jeju Island can participate, but the ponies can be no taller than 137 centimeters. It’s essentially a loser’s group but these little powerhouses shouldn’t be ignored. You only need 100 won to place a bet and the race is thrilling, even if the ponies are a bit slow. Nobody’s trying to set any records here, after all.

In the world of politics, the race for leadership of the Democratic Party has begun.

One press outlet called it a pony race, based on the idea that there isn’t a big difference between the candidates.

Still, it will be a difficult race to predict. While racehorses are good at short distances, their lower bodies are weak. But ponies are distance runners. The Democrats competing for party leadership are also good at distance. They’ve run many races and are still around. Now, all we need is a dark horse to up the ante.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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