Kim Seong Kon

Korea: A prayer for the Year of the Ram and the Sheep

A college student in Liaocheng, Shandong province, showing on Dec 30, 2014, a painting of a sheep on his hands. The Chinese zodiac states that 2015 will be the year of peace, harmony and tranquillity as these are the characteristics of sheep. -- PHOT
A college student in Liaocheng, Shandong province, showing on Dec 30, 2014, a painting of a sheep on his hands. The Chinese zodiac states that 2015 will be the year of peace, harmony and tranquillity as these are the characteristics of sheep. -- PHOTO: AFP 

The Year of the Ram is dawning. Chinese zodiac websites are calling 2015 the "Year of the Sheep".

On the one hand, the word "sheep" in English has negative connotations of obedience, meekness and submissiveness.  On the other, the ram, with its dashing posture and powerful horns, is a symbol of determination, initiative and leadership. Furthermore, in ancient Egypt, the "ram's horn" was revered as a symbol of fertility.

That is why there are many paintings of a ram's horn overflowing with various fruit and produce. Thus, the Year of the Ram definitely sounds better in English than the Year of the Sheep.

On the contrary, in East Asian countries, where obedience, passivity and docility are often regarded as virtues and not flaws, the Year of the Sheep still makes sense.

Perhaps that is why the Chinese zodiac states that 2015 will be the year of peace, harmony and tranquillity as these are the characteristics of sheep.

The zodiac says that in the Year of the Sheep, "war will be averted and there will be a period of reconciliation and compromise, ensuring peace is maintained".

Perhaps, then, we can say that 2015 is "the Year of the Ram and Sheep", so it can embrace two contrasting qualities simultaneously: masculinity and femininity, or Eastern and Western virtues.

By doing so, we may be able to bring peace and harmony between yin and yang, or between the East and the West.

Indeed, in 2015, we want to see peace on earth, which is hopelessly torn and devastated by blind hatred and international conflicts.

Waking up in 2015, I would like to utter a silent prayer. Oh, Lord, Thou said, "Let there be light," when you created the world in the beginning. Please recreate the world by saying, "Let there be peace," this time.

The world is now being destroyed by ideological and religious fanatics and their terrorist activities. These dictators and terrorists ruthlessly massacre people for their political or religious creeds. Some religious fanatics kill people with the incredible conviction that their outrageous crimes will be rewarded in heaven.

Oh, Lord, Thy blessing of peace is especially needed on the Korean Peninsula, which is still divided by political ideologies. Surely, peace can ease the perennial tension and hostility between the North and the South.

Peace is also needed in South Korea, where people are hopelessly divided into factions and constantly antagonise one another. Not realising the danger in which we are currently situated in international conflicts, we are still preoccupied with internal brawls and skirmishes, just like our foolish, incompetent ancestors a century ago who let a neighbouring country rob us of our sovereignty.

We now live in difficult times, helplessly caught in the crossfire between China and Japan, and China and the United States.

Oh, Lord, please let us find experts on China, Japan and the US who can prepare us for potential calamities caused by the clash of the three countries. Let us also gather experts on Russia, Europe and the Middle East, not to mention South-east Asia, and make them explore the ways in which we can strengthen our ties with these countries.

We should be prepared for any unforeseen disasters that may be caused by the whirlpool of international conflicts. We cannot just stand there helplessly watching the imminent crises.

Oh, Lord, we know South Vietnam perished due to internal brawls and antagonism between corrupt politicians and the Viet Cong. The term Viet Cong was derived from Viet Nam Cong San or Vietnamese communists.

North Vietnam portrayed the Viet Cong as indigenous communists in the South, but the South Vietnamese government perceived the Viet Cong as an insurgent puppet tool manipulated by the North Vietnamese government.

In today's South Korea we, too, have indigenous Korean Cong San or Korean communists who, according to the South Korean government, are used and manipulated by North Korea.

Oh, Lord, in 2015 please do not allow the "Korea Cong" or "Kori Cong" to prevail in South Korea; they constantly try to disrupt and subvert the Korean government and society. Fortunately, South Korea is not corrupt and many South Koreans no longer support the pro- North Korea indigenous communists.

Oh, Lord, in 2015, we want to live like a flock of sheep grazing peacefully on the serene prairie that was once called the Land of the Morning Calm. We want to build an Innisfree on the Korean Peninsula and say, "And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow," as Yeats wrote in The Lake Isle Of Innisfree.

O, Lord, in the Year of the Ram, please let us be determined to put an end to internal scuffles and factional antagonism once and for all. Let us take the initiative in bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula. Oh, Lord, in 2015 please help us transform South Korea into a better place to live.

Waking up in the Year of the Ram, I hope South Korea can overcome all its adversity and enjoy a cornucopia of rich harvests and prosperity.

THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Kim Seong Kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and the president of the Literature Translation Institute of Korea.