A piece written by Chung Juyung for a daily newspaper in 1981. It embodies the sharp thinking he held as an entrepreneur.
Are the soft, large snowflakes falling down outside the window jealous of the spring that’s soon to come? Snow that fell after the first signs of spring was often teased for its jealousy of the newly sprouting flowers. Fair to say, the Goddess of the early spring awakens our hearts from hibernation through the cold days of winter. In the valleys of Inwang Mountain, the sound of thawing water trickling down seems to draw the ears to the sounds of the waking atmosphere, letting us know – spring has come! The lethargic winter with its dulling cold has now passed on, and spring is stretching awake from its lair of frozen slumber. In early spring, I wait for the new spring as if awaiting the footsteps of the woman I yearn for. In the areas where the shade has yet to pass, the little snow that’s left on Inwang Mountain reminds me of the fading sadness. The morning of early spring is crisp. The cold and soft wind fills the garden and seems to bewitch my collar, racing down my neck and around the nearby tree. Things have changed from just a few days ago.
The early spring in February comes like an answer to every heart that’s waiting. Sure, many have waited for the spring. The spring now seems spread like fire into the hearts of all the adolescent children striving to keep the fire going in the ridge between two rice paddies, hankering down in a clearing between two piles of the snow remaining near a mountain village. Even as I half-walk and half-run on my way to work at dawn – in pain due to the lack of exercise – I can clearly see, all around, the signs that a new spring is here.
I feel the spring in the soles of my running shoes when I tread in endless trails – foot-following-foot, snow-stepping, thick-treading exercise-in-action. Under my foot, the ground, awakened by spring, seems to move with me, offering grip where before there had only been ice. The touch of the spring snow is soft and tender, while the winter snow, retreating, feels tougher. Spring is in the air as I run through the streets at dawn. It’s in the light that breaks through the window, cleaning the day with its energy. With the sun still on the rise, I run by the long imperial stony walls of Gyeongbokgung Palace. Though the silence is still cold, the spring has enough presence to be felt everywhere. As I breathe in the emotions of the early spring into the lungs of my soul, I look up at the sky that’s yet to become gloriously bright.
So sad, then, that upon entering my office, I find no trace of spring. Stepping forward in time to my present, I find my past a place of recreation and seasonal fruitfulness, and I am left with days numbered and inured only to the daily grind. Perhaps the seasons can only ever really exist in the moment of their unfolding. Looking back, I didn’t perceive their departure, the naïve younger days of mine, but I can’t help thinking I’ve lived the life of an urban nomad who had left his home behind.
Today, the four seasons and the fight for survival therein have become transmogrified into battles for revenue growth across the four business quarters. To a business, the heart is a distant land, dimly recalled. Though he may know that Mother Nature is close by, he has no idea how to experience her, how to hold her in his heart.
I took my first shaky steps as a businessman from a corner shop as a foolish, young man keen to escape poverty, starvation and dilapidation. From that point on, I was caught in a life of adventure and struggle that has continued, yes, even to this day. I focused solely on the long path ahead of me. It seems that I have fretted away my heart and soul concentrating on toil and endeavor.
Not that I think I’m alone in such a position. My business comrades and industry captains are no doubt in a similar situation. It is impossible, I think, to grow a business without waking when others are asleep and running when others rest. We seem to charge headlong through numerous tough competitions that some could see as masochistic. Thus, spring’s soft tendrils touch even those so far away, soaked in darkness. For people like me, who seem to have lived as if within a confined flame burning only to win at competition and making of that the be-all-and-end-all in life, spring, like a kind woman, exists only as a fantasy.
Spring is a gospel, heard by all. It seems to always call first at the doors of the poor and the weak. Spring is warmer to those that have suffered the most from the abject and harrowing winter. Spring sneaks gently in, like a caring mother who doesn’t want to wake you, but just make sure you are snug in bed, cozy and comfortable.
Businessmen are always tense, in a rush, with no peace of mind. They seem to charge on with such energy that they would seem to seek to clasp the universe in their hands. The fact is: these energetic forces of nature are just as likely to yelp and retreat crestfallen when faced with criticism from politicians, public servants or members of the clergy. As a group, businesses are weak. Such was the Confucian thinking with its long history, as was the philosophy of our ancestors who traditionally classed the society into four groups of scholars, farmers, artisans and tradesmen. Even those who have the riches of Croesus cannot escape human frailty, which lingers only as long as the snow does, melting in the spring wind. In a business office, the splendid cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter pass by again and again, such that even when spring comes, sometimes it seems that it is but the dream of winter, or the clothes of a new summer.
“The land is empty with no flowers or plants. Spring is here, but has not come.”
A businessman waiting for spring is often left empty, as a man who waits for the woman of his dreams in the chambers of his heart. As I tread on the remaining snow in Inwang Mountain, I count again the season’s blessings. The spring sun thickens day by day. The new spring is everywhere.
From now on, I want to climb down the mountain as a businessman who can fully enjoy the spring. I’ll watch the splendid stages of the different producers who are working grandly on the world’s economic stage, and I’ll enjoy this spring with a refreshed peace of mind. I’ll walk the paths in the fields and mountains with the people whom I love. I want to let in Mother Nature and hold the heat of human kindness like a bonfire that will power my warmth in giving to others.
There’re many types of life - peaceful or stormy – the ultimate desire is the same. Self-sufficiency is everything.
Spring is coming.
The spring that I’m waiting for with all my heart is very near.