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[Opinion] Red Dragonflies

Posted September. 05, 2007 03:03,   


I feel like crying/ by just looking at it/When the skies are open/the red sunset hangs upon the mountain/ the wind stops/ and quiets down/With its silky wings/ covered by the last lay of sunshine/a dragonfly turns more red/ reflected by sunset glow/It widens its wings/that are as light as my wife’s eyelashes/ Then/ the golden sky of autumn/is reflected upon/ the two eyes of the burning red dragonfly.

This is Kim Jeong-ho’s poem, “A Red Dragonfly” released in 2003. Everyone has at least one or two nostalgic memories about red dragonflies.

Red dragonflies are “sexy” not just for their name, but for the color of red they have from head to body and tail. Above all, they copulate very often. A poet named the copulation as “midair sex.” But not every red dragonfly is red. Only males are red. At first they are yellow, but during copulation season, they turn red. For this reason, the red of the insects is the color of marriage and seduction.

Along with the cosmos flower, the red insects are the harbinger of fall. Under the heating sun, the sight of a red dragonfly makes one realize the arrival of autumn. The dragonfly is found not only in the rural areas but also in cities, and it is not unusual to see many kids running around in an apartment complex to catch dragonflies with insect nets. But the scene is likely to disappear, because the Seoul City government decided to add red dragonflies to the endangered species list of 25 flora and fauna designated by the city government and hit those who catch the insects with one million won fines.

Recently, it has become harder to see the dragonflies than before. Some people blame the development of suburbs, which contributed to the disappearance of swamps and puddles, the habitats of their larvae. On the endangered species list, squirrels are included as well. They are endangered because mountain hikers collect chestnuts and acorns, the staple foods of the animals. Furthermore, wildcats devour them, expediting the extinction. Without much care, they may only be seen in animal catalogs in the future. By the way, I have no idea how to dissuade my son, who has already bought a net to catch red dragonflies…

Editorialist Chung Sung-hee, shchung@donga.com