The Korea Herald


[Kim Seong-kon] Peace and prosperity! The Year of the Rabbit 2023

By Korea Herald Photo

Published : Jan. 4, 2023 - 05:41

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That turbulent Year of the Tiger, 2022, is finally over. As the Year of the Rabbit 2023 is looming, we hope serenity and tranquility are ahead of us after a hard year of domestic and international disruptions.

The year 2022 began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and President Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration in March. In September, Queen Elizabeth II passed away and in October, the tragic Itaewon crowd crush happened. Then the US mid-term election in November rounded out the Year of the Tiger and brought it to a close.

Meanwhile, the clash between China and the US over Taiwan and human rights issues has been ongoing through the year. People still suffered the aftermath of the pandemic and worldwide inflation. Indeed, the Year of the Tiger 2022 was a tempestuous one, marked by international crises and domestic political mayhem, with ferocious tigers lurking everywhere.

In the Year of the Rabbit 2023, we hope to have peace and prosperity, instead of war and turmoil. As is well known, rabbits are docile, herbivorous animals that symbolize amity and calmness. In the Year of the Rabbit, therefore, we hope our politicians will resemble even-tempered rabbits, unlike the short-tempered, carnivorous tiger. We hope our political leaders are cautious and discrete like rabbits, and think twice before taking impetuous actions.

Koreans are especially fond of rabbits because they believe that the shape of the Korean Peninsula resembles a rabbit. Rabbits are an admirable animal, quiet and clean, peaceful and calm. In fact, Koreans resemble rabbits in many ways. For example, like rabbits, Koreans, too, are peace-loving people who share strong bonds and jump for joy when pleased.

Rabbits are quick in action. When they detect danger, rabbits run so fast that the predator finds it hard to catch them. In 2023, South Korea, too, should act fast whenever it senses crisis. Unlike rabbits, however, we do not have to “run away” from the danger. Instead, we should swiftly “run” various emergency measures to defend our country.

Rabbits are also smart enough to create several exits to their underground tunnels, so they can escape easily in case of an emergency. Like rabbits, we, too, should be considerate enough to prepare a number of exits and various options, just in case.

Geographically, the Korean Peninsula looks like a rabbit surrounded by fierce predators. In the 19th century, our myopic, incompetent politicians were not able to cope with the international crisis and consequently lost sovereignty. However, today’s South Korea is no longer a weak, closed country. It has become an advanced country marked by cutting-edge technology, economic prosperity, and strong military power.

In a Korean fairytale, a smart rabbit outwits two gigantic competing animals, a whale and an elephant, symbols of the Oceanic Civilization and the Continent Civilization respectively. In the Year of the Rabbit, we hope that South Korea can survive and even thrive by acting and choosing wisely in the vortex of international conflicts between the Oceanic Civilization and the Continent Civilization.

Domestically, we should say “No!” to radical politicians who would try to split the people into two mutually antagonizing groups, using an obsolete political ideology. In the Year of the Rabbit, we should be discreet and thoughtful before we act impetuously. We should refrain from faultfinding, slandering, or hurting others. Peace-loving rabbits would never do such despicable things.

The Chinese zodiac says more specifically that 2023 is the Year of the Water Rabbit or the Black Rabbit. The forecast says, “By not taking professional risks, they will get fully rewarded throughout the year. The Water Rabbits should take advantage of any opportunity coming their way.” Then it warns, “They should avoid borrowing money and try to reduce spending.” Finally, the horoscope emphasizes the importance of good relationships with others in the Year of the Rabbit.

Indeed, in 2023, we should refrain from any sort of populism that will bankrupt our economy eventually and inevitably. We also should maintain a good relationship with other countries, which is imperative for South Korea’s national security and economy. Sly politicians often instigate anti-foreign sentiment for political gain, calling for ultra-nationalism. They urge us to fight against foreign countries with bamboo spears, recalling the Donghak Revolution in the 19th century, when Korean farmers revolted against the ruling class, using bamboo spears as weapons.

However, we no longer live in the age of bamboo spears. We are now living in an era of drones and laser guided weapons. Fighting with bamboo spears, we will inevitably end up losing.

In the Year of the Rabbit 2023, we hope to put an end to our chronic enmities and restore our friendship with other countries. We hope we can accomplish unity and consensus peacefully in order to build a better society.

Kim Seong-kon

Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.