[Viewpoint] Flying like a dragonThe dragon is the only imaginary animal among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, and it appears in legends and folklore in both Western and Eastern culture. But the image of the dragon, which does not exist in reality, changes through time and region.
Greek mythology depicts the dragon in a negative way. Ladon, a serpentine dragon and son of Typhon, had 100 heads. He guarded the golden apple tree of the Hesperides sleeplessly but was defeated by Heracles. In the Enuma Elis, the creation myth of ancient Babylon, Tiamat is the highest goddess in the form of an evil dragon.
However, a dragon, which sheds its skin and ascends to heaven, also signifies revival and resurrection. In Eastern civilization, the dragon was worshiped as a precious creature. The clothes of the king were called the Dragon Gown and the seat of the king was called the Dragon’s Chair.
Dragons are classified as the yellow, blue, white, red, and black. The yellow dragon is the symbol of the first king or emperor of China. The blue dragon is believed to drive away evil spirits. The white dragon represents royal or noble status while the red dragon is the notion of calamity. The black dragon is the dragon of water that brings rain clouds in the drought season.
Historically, people anticipated a great hero would surface in the Year of the Dragon to begin a period of peace and prosperity. In fact, many major events took place in the Year of the Dragon. In 56 B.C., Goguryeo invaded East Okjeo, and in 512, General Isabu of Silla conquered and annexed the island kingdom of Usan. In modern times, wrestler Yang Jeong-mo won the first Olympic gold medal in Montreal in 1976, and the 1988 Seoul Olympics was also held in the Year of the Dragon.
In the Year of Imjin, the black dragon, Korea suffered national crises. In 1232, Mongolia invaded Goryeo, which had to move the capital to Ganghwa Island. In 1592, Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea. In Chapter 22 of “Yongbieocheonga, the Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven,” King Taejo’s grandfather, Dojo, defeated the black dragon with help from the white dragon.
The black dragon was considered an ominous creature for the Joseon Dynasty. Hopefully, the black dragon of 2012 will bring luck to Korea, not be an evil omen. Since the iron-fist ruler in North Korea died and handed over the power to the young heir, the internal discord in South Korea has been aggravating.
Those who advocate peace cherished the memory of the deceased, who has undermined peace with terror attacks and military provocations. Those who speak of liberal unification are obsessed with antagonism without providing any constructive vision to improve the inter-Korean relations.
At this crossroad of confrontation and reconciliation, Korea will hold the legislative and presidential elections this year. No one can expect which dragon will rise to the sky and which one will fall. Not only the politicians but also activists, professors, celebrities and religious leaders are divided. Tolerance, consideration, contemplation and moderation are nowhere to be found. What made them so harsh and fierce?
The 4,400-kilometer (2,735-mile) Amur River rises from Inner Mongolia and flows out to Primorsky Krai, and its high content of dark precipitation gave it the name “Black Dragon River.” We cannot consider the black dragon of the Amur as “evil” since it has long been the lifeline for Koreans. You will find the mural of Banyayongseon as you enter the Hall of Heaven in the Tongdo Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang. It is a representation of the boat of Banya crossing over from the world of pain to the heaven as a dragon.
Here, Banya signifies wisdom. The wise and reasonable choice of the voters will determine the fate of the nation as they are not swayed by demagoguery, negative propaganda and empty promises. We must elect a balanced leader with conviction, insight, understanding, communication, drive and tolerance. Lack of competency and experience will surely bring national disaster.
I sincerely pray that the black dragon of 2012 is the auspicious one that will bring the light of wisdom and reason. And the young Koreans who are frustrated by the grim reality will shed the skin and fly up like a dragon.
*Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
The author is a partner at Hwang Mok Park, P.C. and former head of the Seoul Central District Court.
By Lee Woo-keun