Why do the Brits wear poppy pins?

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Why do the Brits wear poppy pins?

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Following her visit to Paris, President Park Geun-hye is on a state visit to the United Kingdom, and she may have been surprised to see people there wearing poppy pins. Members of the royal family, the prime minister, government officials and British citizens favor the red flower.

When I asked the British Embassy in Korea about the meaning of the flower, I was told it is a tradition that goes back almost 100 years. Remembrance Day, which falls on Nov. 11, is observed to mark the end of World War I (1914-18) and to remember those who died in the line of duty.

The poppy is a common flower in Belgium and northeastern France, where intense trench warfare took place. The soldiers must have found consolation from the nearby red flowers, which came to symbolize the blood spilled in the war.

Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, a physician and a poet, wrote a poem titled “In Flanders Fields,” in memory of those killed in the war. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row.”

In fact, the United Kingdom is a religiously and politically divided country, with clear distinctions among England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, despite those differences, its citizens are united in wearing poppy pins to honor those who have died in the line of duty.

When I lived in London, I noticed that the poppy pins were sold at stores and handed out on the street. You could even get one from a pub with a small donation. The entire nation endured the war, and that painful memory united its people.

The United Kingdom has been declining since the latter half of the 20th century. Until the 1950s, it had several global car brands, but now it is one of only two G-7 nations without a global brand, along with Canada. Rolls-Royce was sold to Volkswagen in 1998 and then to BMW in 2002. Jaguar used to be synonymous with luxury sedans and sports cars, but it is now owned by India’s Tata Motors. The Mini brand, which appeared on the popular “Mr. Bean” comedy series, has been owned by BMW since 1994.

Furthermore, a British textbook states that its shipbuilding industry collapsed after the emergence of the Japanese and Korean shipping industries in the 1960s.

However, now Great Britain is rising again. Since the Thatcher administration in the 1980s, government regulations on industries were eased, and the finance, culture, knowledge, science and technology-based industries are thriving. The dramatic comeback may be inspired by the spirit of unity represented by the poppy flower. We need to pay attention to the meaning of the flowers.

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

By CHAE IN-TAEK


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