In his short poem, "Lack of Steadfastness," English medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer complains that the world, once "stedfast and stable," is now so "false and deceivable" that everything is "turned up-so-down" and "all is lost for lack of steadfastness." Then, he asks, "What makes this world to be so variable / But lust that folk have in dissension?" Why "Truth is put down, reason is holden fable; / Virtue has now no domination; / Pity exiled, no man is merciable?" For Chaucer, the world was turned topsy-turvy.
Today's situation in our country is not far from what Chaucer described about 700 years ago. A scandal, whatsoever it is, is an everyday occurrence in Korean society recently. People are dismayed at the front-page news about shocking scandals every morning. For the past couple of months, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Last summer, we have suffered from various natural disasters which had caused serious damages to our industries and manpower. Typhoon Rusa devastated the Korean Peninsula, ripping through the entire nation--several hundreds of casualties and massive destruction of the country's infrastructure. Toxic algae known as red tide hit the country's southern coast, killing a great number of fish and shellfish. Many people, especially children, were fallen prey to conjunctivitis, a highly infectious eye disease, and many schools nationwide were forced to temporarily shut their doors.
We could overcome all of those hardships by and by through our united brotherhood and sisterhood. However, worst of all, our society has been still deeply divided over some internal affairs. At the center of this extreme partisan contention, which is turning for the worse day after day, there are issues of ideology and national identity. It is, in a word, a full-frontal confrontation between conservative and progressive The embattled politicians and activists are ready to fight to the death over every issue. We are deeply divided at the issue over the relationship between the two Koreas.
As far as inter-Korean relationship is concerned, things are happening too quickly and we are confused. Despite the sorry naval skirmish in the West Sea, Mount Kumgang tourism and providing food and fertilizer to North Korea have been continuing as scheduled. We still don't know whether North Korea is "the main enemy" or not. We use the Korean peninsular flag, instead of our Taegeukgi, seemingly giving up our state identity and pride in a day. An ideological fighting to the death is still going on. However, we don't have to cross a line of no return in a hurry. It would lead to only more chaos.
It is true that every Korean is eager to see the nation united, our society unified. Everyone knows that regionalism and social integration are important issues which need to be debated by society at large. We should sweep away the venomous regionalism and should enhance the "social integration" through mutual understanding and compromise. We don't have to be in a hurry to achieve our goals; rather, we have to be steadfast opponents and steadfast allies. Though enthusiastic in passion, we should be reasonable in thought. Only doing so, our society will become wholesome and alive.
At the end of his poem, Chaucer prays to King Richard: "O prince, desire to be honourable, / Cherish your folk and hate extortion! . . . Show forth your sword of castigation, / Dread God, do law, love truth and worthiness, And wed your folk again to steadfastness." Who would be our "prince," who can deliver us from this miserable situation? Who would be a leader with steadfast courage and steadfast loyalty to the country? In the season of presidential election, it appears as a prime theme for our future.
Park Yoon-hee email@example.com
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