By Kim Ji-soo
May is a favorite month of mine. The verdure or "sillok" in Korean that the month brings along relaxes the eye and pleases the soul. It's undeniably the most pleasant month of the year, I must say. Brides are all beautiful but the May bride is often cited as the most becoming.
During this beautiful month, I had the chance to revisit an experience; or rather go see one of my favorite artists, violinist Chung Kyung-wha. She returned to Korea to perform after a finger injury forced her to cancel a concert in Seoul five years ago. The first time I encountered this vibrant lady was before the new century in the late 1990s. It was a concert in Seoul.
Chung, who is 62 this year, must have been in her 40s then. I wasn't much of a music fan at the time, but once she got on the stage in a flaming red gown and started playing, I was forced to lean forward and watch and listen. It was some pre-summer night in Seoul, and the concert hall in southern Seoul was crowded.
Without much accompaniment, she captured the audience with her performance marked by her famed passionate body movements, her singular high pitch and most of all, her understanding of music. This understanding allowed me, a music novice to at least appreciate some of the works of Bartok and Dvorak that she played that night.
So visiting her again, I, along with the audience in the same concert hall more than a decade later, was highly expect and about what her performance would be like. She came out on the stage, wearing a long black dress. She walked confidently onto the stage and waited for her turn to play Brahms Violin concerto in D major. Gone were the dynamic body movements (maybe because the music didn't require it), but she delivered her rendition of the concerto so purely, it was awe-inspiring to see an artist of her caliber letting go of many things to deliver the essence of music - the sound.
There were aggregate moments in which she seemed to be expressing gratitude to the sound, the instrument and maybe someone or something up there that allowed her to become one of the greatest performers of all time.
Her performance that night and the one more than a decade ago seemed to resemble life itself. Our 40s are days of maturity and confidence, hard-earned after the turmoil of the youthful 20s and passionate 30s. The 40s are days of "no more perplexities," as Confucius once said about the age 40. The 60s are more about learning to accommodate things as they are. As we progress throughout different stages in life, it's only natural that we realize our mortality and try to embrace the essentials .
It would be comforting if government - the congregate of individuals essentially - realize that governments or regimes too should have a life cycle. Watching the series of events and incidents involving North Korea bring this to mind all the more so. The current Pyongyang regime has been in power for six decades since the Korean War. Yet the family dynasty that started with the late Kim Il-sung, the father of the current Dear Leader, seems poised to continue with the third generation.
There have been reports in the media about the possibility of Kim Jong-il's son, Jong-un, succeeding his father. In a recent visit to China and was in his meeting with the Chinese leader Hu Jintao, Kim Jong-il was reported to have affirmed that it's the historical responsibility of the two sides to push their friendship forward with the progress of the times and from generation to generation.
And the North Korean leader also affirmed that the goal of his country is to constantly improve the living standard of the people, i.e., the essential goal of any governance. The living standards of the North Korean people have largely deteriorated under Kim's rule, judging by its food shortages and accounts from North Korean defectors.
Perhaps it's time the leader of North Korea to realize the life cycle of his regime has come to an end and look for other ways to improve the lives of its people, rather than through dynastic succession and roguish behavior. In light of the tension between the two Koreas, the anticipation that somehow such recognition might strike the North Korean leader is all the more heightened, I must say.