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[Opinion] `500 Years of Songak, 500 Years of Bukak `

Posted August. 15, 2003 21:51,   


Standing on the top of Mountain Inwang in the morning of Aug. 15 Independence Day, I could see both Mountain Songak in Gaeseong and Mountain Bukhan in Seoul from the peak. It reminded me of some writers who were invited to North Korea a few years ago. They said at that time they could see Mountain Bukhan visibly from the North. Wondering whether North Koreans also watched Bukhan and Inwang from somewhere on Songak and felt sorry for the divided country, I felt sad.

Monk Doseon, who was a spiritual guardian for the early Korea Dynasty and great topography theorist, sensed that Songak was the city harboring royal spirit and a future capital of the Korea Dynasty when he encountered with this city while traveling across the country. Doseon, then, met with Wangyung, father of Wanggeon, who later founded Korea Dynasty and became the first king, and allured emergence of a new kingdom. Pleased with what he heard, Wangyung asked back how long the new kingdom would last. Doseon answered, “It would last 1,000 years.” At that moment, he conjured up the image of Mountain Han (now Bukhan), which stood tall before Songak, and answered again, “It would last 500 years, with Mountain Bukhan stood in its way.” Korea Dynasty, in fact, lasted 474 years and Chosun Dynasty followed, with its capital city founded in Hanyang.

Lee Sung-gye, founder of Chosun Dynasty and the first king, first planned to build a capital city near the area around Mountain Gyeryong. The name Gyeryong, which means a chicken and a dragon in Korean, came as Monk Muhak compared the shape of the area to a golden chicken`s egg and a dragon flying up to the sky. Yet, the construction was suspended in less than a year as royal ministers asked the king to build a capital city at the center and the king himself dreamt a dream about a guardian spirit of mountain, who warned him not to touch even a handful of soil. Near the area, some 1,000 steppingstones are still left around, indicating that the place was a construction site. Monk Muhak, then, almost made up his mind to tell the king to build a palace in Wangship-ri. But he decided to go farther to the outskirt of Mountain Bukhan after a farmer said to him to go another 10 Ri, or 4km. Chosun Dynasty, which was founded in 1392 in Gaegyeong, moved to Hanyang in 1394 and demised 518 years later in 1910 as the last king signed a treaty with Japanese occupation force.

It has been 58 years since the country was freed from the colonial rule, and we are watching the conservative and the liberal groups holding rallies respectively at the center of Seoul, raising their voices. And we just wish this country, which came at the expense of ancestors` great sacrifices, would `stand forever strong` like the phrase from the national anthem.

Oh Myeong-cheol, Editorial Writer, oscar@donga.com