Take time to smell the hybrid roses

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Take time to smell the hybrid roses

I went to see flowers at the rose greenhouse, or glasshouse, at the Agricultural Technology Center in Ochang, North Chungcheong. The trip was inspired by a short report on Kim Ju-hyeong, who was designated master of the local administration by the Ministry of Public Administration and Safety for developing 26 indigenous rose species in the past 18 years.

I asked myself: indigenous roses, not wild roses or sweetbriers? I suddenly became curious. Since it is my job as a journalist to investigate, I didn’t hesitate to drive two hours to see the roses in person.

As I traveled to Ochang, I thought about the old house I grew up in. In my neighborhood, my house at the time was called the house with a rose fence. My mother had set up a fence and planted climbing roses. Every spring, the fence was covered with beautiful vines with red blooms. As a girl, I used to dream of my future as blooming like those roses.

When I arrived at the greenhouse last week, I had to first blame my lack of imagination when it comes to enhanced strains of wild roses or sweetbriers. Kim’s roses were of many colors and shapes - from the greenish Green Pearl to purple, orange, red, yellow and crimson varieties.

The so-called Sae-al, a mix of pink and white rose, is still in development, and Kim’s Hong is a clear, dark crimson - the familiar color we often saw on children’s ribbons in the old days when dyeing technology was not as advanced.

The shapes are not of the thorny wild roses or sweetbriers. Kim creates new breeds by mixing foreign varieties with indigenous kinds. After breeding repeatedly on average for eight years, he gets a new rose. Even when he begins with foreign seeds, it can be registered as an indigenous kind if the new breed is developed according to certain standards.

“No matter where the seed comes from, it becomes indigenous if we create a new breed and grow it in Korea,” he says. “Now, I wish we could export new varieties of roses for royalty.”

During the foreign currency crisis in the late 1990s, most Korean breeding companies were sold to foreign companies. As a result, we have had to pay a hefty amount for the seeds for many kinds of vegetables and fruits we enjoy every day. In an effort to recover sovereignty of breeds, our researchers across the country began to nurture new breeds one after another. Now, even indigenous roses - originally classified as foreign plant breeds - are being created in what amounts to a remarkable restoration of our sovereignty in seeds and breeds.

Perhaps I have been too immersed in busy routines, as I could have forgotten about the rosy dreams I had when I was young.

But even if my rosy dream had turned into something like a thorny cactus, I may soon be able to transform it into a new beautiful rose eight years later - if I breed it with a new rosy dream now.

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

by Yang Sunny
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