Spring, it could be argued, has finally arrived. Usually I would equate the cherry blossoms with spring, but for me spring is most evident in the yellow dust, or 황사, that infamously comes from China. But cherry blossoms in Korea really let you know there’s no turning back now; summer is around the corner.
In Korea cherry blossoms are very, very popular. In fact I would say they are more popular than any other plant in the country, and the festivals that are celebrate these pretty trees are almost as popular.
I’ve heard a few Korean people here question this aspect of modern Korea; why does Korea celebrate this tree and it’s blossom so vivaciously considering the flower itself is a symbol of Japan, Korea’s neighbour that is often seen as Korea’s enemy?
I call it Korea’s enemy because despite what amounts to increased international economic, political and military cooperation – not to mention the thousands of tourists who pass between the two countries every year – the media is very quick to demonise Japan, especially when it come to promoting its nationalistic interest. This is something Korea is equally guilty of, if guilty is the right word. This demonisation and self-conflagration was even carried on in the wake of the earthquake which has shattered Japan.
So why do they celebrate this flower? I don’t know. There are a number of possibilities so allow me to muse a little here.
1: It’s pretty and great for taking photos.
2. It’s pretty and looks much nicer than what can be a very grey and drab place, especially when you’re waiting for the rest of spring to kick in.
3. Spring is here, let’s celebrate!
The last one I think is probably the strongest candidate.
Winter in Korea can feel very long; it’s dry, cold and there is practically no colour save the brown of the earth and the grey of the buildings. When the cherry blossoms arrive it is truly a baptism of colour. When the first blossoms start to poke out I get a sudden quickening in my step and can’t help staring at the white and pink blossoms. It helps that the sun shines warmly.
When the cherry blossoms come I know then that I had better start airing out my shorts because summer is around the corner, and winter is as far away as it is possible to get!
Here are a few cherry blossoms beginning to brighten up the place in Kyunghee University’s Suwon Campus