OPINION

[Kim Seong-kon] 2019: Korea in the Year of the Pig

By Kim Seong-kon
  • Published : Jan 1, 2019 - 16:51
  • Updated : Jan 1, 2019 - 16:51

Traditionally, the Year of the Pig is regarded as auspicious because pigs symbolize good fortune. People believe that pigs have gentle personalities and an optimistic demeanor. Pigs are also known to be energetic and enthusiastic and, contrary to popular belief, prefer a clean and organized environment. Experts say that those who are born in the Year of the Pig possess many similar attributes.

In some countries, pork is a favorite dish. The Spanish people, for example, enjoy Jamon, ham that is dry-cured in the famous Spanish sun and air. In Spain, pigs are not confined to a breeding farm, but graze the fields and mountain slopes freely, living mostly on acorns, which makes their meat sweet and tender. We also know that bacon is a favorite item in both Continental and American breakfasts. As the Year of the Pig is dawning, we should look forward to a bright, fortunate year ahead of us.

However, according to the Chinese zodiac, the upcoming Year of the Pig, 2019, does not seem to be particularly rosy. The zodiac says, “It is traditionally the unluckiest year with trouble and danger lurking at every corner.” It continues: “Similar to the previous year, pigs may find some luck in some areas of their life, but others will require hard work to avoid potential pitfalls. Pigs will most likely experience emotional ups and downs, making them feel frustrated and sad at times.”

It may be a coincidence, but this description sounds very reminiscent of the current situation of Korea. The zodiac advises, “While this can be terribly frustrating, try to remember that a key element to utilizing your luck is timing. Next year will bear good fruit for pigs, but the time is not right to harvest the fruits of your labor.” That means timing is important, and nothing spectacular may come this year despite our strenuous efforts.

The following statement of the zodiac sounds like an admonition of Korea’s changing relationship with other countries. The zodiac says, “The love forecast for pigs is pretty unremarkable for 2019. It seems that while this is not a year of true romance, there will be plenty of enjoyable moments and new prospects during the year. However, it is important to be observant as these opportunists are meant to teach you a lesson about what is and isn’t important in a suitor.” Then comes a warning: “Remember not to be too quick to jump into a relationship, as it may lead to more problems than it is worth. Focus instead on enlarging your circle of friends.”

Based on this advice, we should be discreet in changing our relationships with other countries, for our future and national security will depend upon it. The zodiac advises us that instead of hastily breaking up with our old friends and jumping into a new relationship with new friends, we should focus on expanding our circle of friends. Obviously, that would be a wiser and safer choice. We do not need to act like an emotionally unstable teenager who easily breaks up with old friends and tries to find new ones. We should overcome perpetual puberty and become mature in our relationship with other countries.

The admonition of the zodiac about changing our commitments in the Year of the Pig continues: “For pigs who are already in a committed relationship, it will be important to communicate your desires to your mate. A failure of communication usually denotes the imminent breakdown of other major relationship foundations. In order to prevent this from happening, actively listen to your partner and don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel as well, or you may find yourself harboring some resentment.”

Of course, the zodiac’s warnings are addressed to those who were born in the Year of the Pig. Nevertheless, they sound like an admonishment to Korea’s current situation. Some foreigners sarcastically observe that in 2017, which was the Year of the Dog, Korea was like a dog-fight arena where spiteful people were doggedly fighting and biting each other. In the Year of the Pig, we should stop fighting and listen to the reprimand of the zodiac for advice on what to do.

The pig is the last of all 12 zodiac animals. One story says that the pig overslept and arrived late, and another myth reveals that he was late because he had to rebuild his house after it was destroyed by a wolf. Anyway, because he was late, he could only take the last place among the 12 animals of the zodiac.

Likewise, in the Year of the Pig, we should be alert not to oversleep, not to let our house get destroyed by a big, bad wolf, and not to be a loser who arrives late and thus has to occupy only the last place in the world. In the Year of the Pig, we should also be discreet in changing our friendship with other countries, because our choice will surely decide our future destiny.


By Kim Seong-kon

Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting professor at the University of Malaga in Spain. He can be reached at sukim@snu.ac.kr -- Ed.