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[Op-Ed] Year of the White Tiger

Posted December. 31, 2009 23:21,   


Blue dragons, white tigers, red phoenixes and black tortoises are four creatures appearing in a picture of four gods. Among them, the white tiger is the only animal that exists. Of several kinds of tigers, the white tiger with its chocolate stripes and white background has been worshipped as an intelligent animal. Since the color white represents sunshine, Korea`s ancestors believed that a white tiger made princes docile and the rich free from greed. In the real world, however, the white tiger has faced difficulty hunting other animals since they cannot go unnoticed. Though they have been worshipped by the Korean people, they have suffered a lot.

As the white tiger has two values, Koreans treat it in two different ways. Koreans worship and like it, but at the same time, they underestimate and are afraid of it. Since the tiger represents absolute authority and power, it is thought to be the epitome of bravery, honor, power, public service, troops and victory. In fairy tales, however, the tiger is usually described as foolish and dull. In a traditional Korean fairy tale, a tiger says to a middle-aged woman, “I won`t eat you if you give me a piece of rice cake.” How funny. In certain cases, tigers find out who respects his or her parents or repay the kindness of others. In other stories, the feline is described as a corrupt government official, a shyster and a brute. Unlike the tiger, the dragon and phoenix have not been described in different ways. Koreans have probably considered the tiger as a familiar animal.

In the myth surrounding Korea`s founder Dangun, a bear ate only mugwort and garlic for 100 days to become the woman who eventually gave birth to Dangun. A tiger could not do the same. Why did it fail? Did its bravery and agility force it to give up the test? In his book "One of 12 Animals Representing the Oriental Zodiac: the Tiger,:" professor Lee Eo-ryeong said, “Tigers fail to become human beings. In the story, we can find out how to tell tigers from human beings.” Even strong animals cannot be human beings if they lack great stoicism or strong willpower to overcome difficulty.

The world has diverse aspects and everything has different features. There are proverbs about tigers that contradict each other. One says tigers shun rotten meat while another says hungry tigers eat butterflies. A person`s life will change depending on what aspects he or she sees. 2010 will also be full of various events. Considering obstacles as chances might prove helpful. To those who have greatly suffered, please take deep breaths to get more calm. By doing so, Koreans can see happy days.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)