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[Kim Seong-kon] Belling the cat in the Year of the Mouse

In the Chinese horoscope, 2020 is the Year of the Mouse. According to the fable behind the horoscope, when the Emperor of Heaven invited 12 animals to his party, the Mouse cunningly tricked the Ox into giving him a lift, and then jumped down at the end to cross the finish line first. Since the Mouse begins the zodiac ahead of the other animals, they say that the Year of the Mouse marks a year of new beginnings. We hope that 2020 will be a year of new beginnings for Korea too.

In the horoscope, the Mouse symbolizes wealth, fortune, and prosperity. More specifically, the horoscope for 2020 records that the coming year will be The Year of the Metal Mouse that will promote metal industries such as automobiles, smartphones, and IT products. In 2020, therefore, we hope to see Samsung, LG, and Hyundai prosper in the international market. In order to be financially prosperous, we need to encourage, not discourage, big business corporations, all of which have played a crucial role in export and creating jobs. In fact, the reputation of Korea owes much to those three corporations among others that have been doing remarkably well overseas. In the Year of the Mouse, we hope Korea will recuperate from the recent economic troubles caused by the government’s ill-advised, amateurish policies.

The zodiac also states that those born in the Year of the Mouse are clever, optimistic, and very good at adapting to new environments. According to the horoscope, the Mouse people are also energetic, creative, and keep things tidy. In 2020, the Korean people, too, should think and act wisely in order to keep the country neat and organized. Currently, Korea’s social milieu is turbulent due to unprecedented political turmoil between the Left and the Right. In 2020, we hope to sort out the disorder and restore tranquility.

At the same time, those born in in the Year of the Mouse are said to exhibit undesirable characteristics as well. The zodiac says that they lack leadership and communication skills. They also tend to be inflexible and unreasonable, and stubborn with their opinion, even though their personality is quite likeable. Oftentimes, they sound rude and impolite due to lack of social skills. In 2020, Korea should try to be flexible and reasonable, refraining from clashing with her allies and exercising refined diplomatic skills instead.

The zodiac warns “The second part of 2020 comes with a grating distrust, for which some reasons may exist, some fictive, some arising from lack of honesty.” It also admonishes, “You will face many struggles throughout the year. You should be on the lookout for challenges in your relationship. Petty arguments, financial battles, or suspicions might plague your love-life.”

In the year 2020, then, there may be challenges in our relationships with other countries. If so, we should try very hard to regain trust in the international community. We should be cautious enough to avoid political conflicts and economic scuffles with our neighboring countries. Indeed, we should be smart enough to maximize our innate potential to help us push through hard times awaiting us in 2020.

According to the zodiac, “The Mouse natives are going to have long-term relationships with the loyal Ox, the adventurous Dragon, and the smart Monkey.” Indeed, in 2020 we should maintain a good relationship with our neighboring countries that resemble the Ox, the Dragon, and the Monkey metaphorically. Despite different personalities and idiosyncrasies, the above animals can get along very well without a problem. Why, then, can Korea not get along with other countries?

In the year 2020, we hope to be as smart and shrewd as a mouse. Unlike the mice in a fairy tale that blindly followed the piper whose enchanting tunes inevitably led them to annihilation, we should not follow our instigators thoughtlessly. At the same time, we should not be like a parliament of mice in Aesop’s fable, “the Bell and the Cat,” that make excuses and hide behind, instead of trying to bell the marauding cat.

In every election, we hear that politicians promise us a better society and an end to corruption. In every administration, we also hear politicians chant justice, fairness, and equality. Each time, however, we are dismayed and disillusioned by their lies and hypocrisy. Politicians catch your ear and make all sorts of sweet talk to entice you, but their sole purpose is to secure your vote at the next election. Yet many of us do not care and exhibit indifference. Recently, however, Mike Harmon, a retired US Navy captain, sent me the famous warning of Plato, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

In 2020, therefore, we should be alert and raise our voice when our unreliable politicians try to lead the nation in harm’s way. Waking up in the Year of the Mouse, we strongly hope that Korea will remain as prosperous as it has been and move toward a bright future.


Kim Seong-kon
Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University. -- Ed.
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