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[Opinion] Lesson of the Cart

Posted January. 10, 2003 22:43,   


Yeonam Park Ji-won, scholar in Chosun Dynasty who advocated pragmatism, wrote the great book of `Yeolha Diary,` an account of his trip to Chinese Chung Dynasty. In the book, he argued that Chosun adopt practical learning instead of sticking to philosophical learning such as Seongri-hak, citing a variety of devices he witnessed in China. One of them was a cart. He insisted that the dynasty produce and distribute carts at once, saying a country would never be rich without carts.

▷He stated in his book as follows. `Carts are of the greatest use for the country. There are thousands in kind - those used for land, water and military purposes, to name a few. Carts used for carrying freights and people are the most important means for the life of people, so development of carriages is a matter of urgency.` He then reasoned that with many carts, roads will be paved out and goods will be in full circulation throughout the country. To support his argument, he illustrated, `in villages by the sea, people use shrimps and sardines as manure, but in Seoul they are traded at hefty prices.`

▷Carts are a testament to the history of human civilization, in fact. Prototype carts have been evolved into wagons, carriages, bicycles, automobiles, trains and tanks. In line with the development, tight webs of roads have also been built connecting every corner of the world. Then, Yeonam`s reasoning that the use of carts would lead to better road conditions was an insightful policy proposal that foresaw the future.

▷Carts are more than just a means of transportation, however. There lies the philosophy of the time and life in the principle of the cart system. They move only when the wheels on the both sides are exactly the same. When the balance is tipped off to one side, the cart will be turned over. It moves ahead smoothly when it is full of loads. An old Korean saying `an empty cart makes noise` must have derived from this fact. And what we need now is the balance of the two wheels of the cart, whether it is a balance between the conservative and the liberal or between the young and the old generation. People want the new government to be a fully loaded stable cart instead of an empty cart that makes noise. The news that cart parts from some three thousands years ago were found at Gwangju historic site reminds us again of the lesson of the cart.

Song Young-eon, Editorial Writer, youngeon@donga.com