Get ready for another gold rush
If Christopher Columbus didn’t want to find gold, the discovery of the Americas would have taken many more years. Columbus was deeply impressed by “The Travels of Marco Polo” by Rustichello da Pisa and admired the land of gold. In 1492, Columbus set out to find a western route to India in search of gold. He said, “Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.” On Oct. 12, he landed on the island of San Salvador, and the exploration of the New World began. But his quest also brought catastrophic consequences, such as the slave trade and the destruction of the Inca and Aztec civilizations.
Similarly, the desire to monopolize gold has led to countless wars over time. The 19th century gold rush in the American west is a classic case that illustrates the obsession for gold.
Korea also had a gold rush in the 1930s. The Japanese colonial government extracted more than 300 tons of gold from 3,000 mines before Korea’s liberation. People dreamed of finding the mines and getting rich. Farmers dug up their fields, and notable writers such as Kim Yu-jeong and Chae Man-sik got involved in mining.
Then the power of gold faded from our memories for a while. A few years ago, it was common to give a gold ring as a gift for a child’s first birthday. The ring, typically made of 3.75 grams of gold, was valued at about 50,000 won ($47 dollars). These days, 3.75 grams of gold is worth well over 200,000 won and international gold prices are breaking record after record. The Bank of Korea recently announced it had increased its holdings of gold for the first time in 13 years, but Korea is short of gold considering the size of its economy. Korea’s gold reserve is the 45th largest in the world. There are reportedly more than 1,800 abandoned gold mines in Korea. If gold prices continue to soar, we may have to prepare for another gold rush.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Ko Dae-hoon