On the cusp of Lunar New Year’s Eve and the first day of the New Year, people set off fireworks and open a new bottle of wine, drinking in the warmth of spring and releasing stiff shoulders. As soon as morning breaks, people attach spring greeting messages to the door and make a wish for the new year.
South Koreans usually display the phrase “May the coming of spring be blessed with great happiness” and “On a clear day, many good and joyful things will happen.” The Chinese write seven characters in red calligraphy meaning good fortune and prosperity. These messages display the sincere wishes of people’s happiness. Before paper became common, our ancestors decorated doors with paintings of peach trees and a ghost, like a charm that warded off evil spirits. Posting a greeting for spring is considered an old tradition for many modern people, but we can still keep the lines of a poem as our own charm as follows: You, with a fluttering heart” ( Soo-kwon Song); or “Joy of Hope / is a Present the New Year Gives” (Soo-hee Hong).
As a politician, Wang An-seok was determined to reform an outdated political system. He sought to introduce new laws to root out corruption, but faced strong objections from opposition politicians and unintended adverse consequences. As the reputation of being “the only chancellor who didn’t ride a sedan chair, marry concubines, and leave an inheritance” suggests, Wang was a person of uncompromising spirit. Knowing this context, the poem is read more than just a celebration of the new year; it sounds more like the poet’s plea for bold reform of anachronistic values.