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Talent, wits and success represent Year of Red Monkey

December 31, 2015
Monkeys groom each other at a zoo at Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul)

Monkeys groom each other at a zoo at Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, Monday.
(Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul)

By Jhoo Dong-chan

2016 is the Year of the Monkey based on the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.

According to the 60-year counting system, combining the 10 celestial stems and the 12 earthly branches, 2016 is the Year of the Red Monkey, with the stem representing “red” and “fire.”

A painting of a monkey, which is one of the 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiac. (Courtesy of National Folk Museum)

A painting of a monkey, which is one of the 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiac.
(Courtesy of National Folk Museum)

The monkey is often illustrated as a clever and energetic animal not only in the East but also in the West.

Because it is widely considered as an auspicious animal in many countries, the monkey has often appeared as a hero or main character in various myths across the world, including the Chinese classic, “Hsi Yu Chi,” or the Journey to the West, and the Indian myth of the Hindu god Hanumat.

Following the theory of evolution, the monkey is believed to be the most biologically similar to human beings and also of high intelligence. In movies and stories, monkeys are often depicted communing with people.

Traditionally Korea was not a big habitat of monkeys, but the animal appeared in paintings and ceramics to symbolize maternal love and success, in poems to represent solitude, and in maskdance plays it symbolizes wit, imagination and talent.

Year of the Red Monkey in history

However, the Year of the Red Monkey has not been always welcome in Korea because a number of bad incidents have taken place throughout the country’s history in these years.

Yeonsangun, the 10th king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910, infamous for his tyranny, was born in 1476, another Year of the Red Monkey.

Also, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the Japanese leader who had his army invade Korea twice and killed millions of Koreans in the late 16th century, was born in the Year of the Red Monkey in 1536.

In 1896, King Gojong and his crown prince took refuge at the Russian legation due to a series of Imperial Japanese atrocities.

However, Korea also had good fortune in the years of the Red Monkey.

Wang Geon, the founding king of Goryeo, united the three kingdoms in 936, bringing order and stability to the Korean Peninsula.

In 1236, work on the “Palman Daejanggyeong,” or the Tripitaka Koreana, was begun in hopes of invoking divine assistance with combating the Mongolian invasion. It took 16 years to complete the carvings for a total of 81,258 wooden printing blocks, and it is the world’s most comprehensive and oldest intact version of the Buddhist canon in Chinese script.

People born in the Year of the Monkey

Believing that the red monkey symbolizes health, success and protection, it is said that many married couples in China plan to give birth to a baby this year.

Likewise, people born in the Year of the Monkey are believed to be good at numbers and often good at many trades. They are thus often considered to be perfect for business.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Shinsegae Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin, the leaders of two of the nation’s major conglomerates, were born in 1968.

In 1956, the previous Year of the Red Monkey, Sungjoo Group CEO Kim Sung-joo, who is also the president of the Korean Red Cross, was born, as well as Samchully Chairman Lee Man-deuk who found success in the domestic market with bicycles.

Nongshim founder and chairman Shin Choon-ho was born in 1932, and so was Doosan Group Honorary Chairman Park Yong-kon.

Among celebrities, 35-year-old Kang Dong-won is the most notable star, having starred as a young exorcist in the recent movie, “Priests.” Hani, of K-pop girl band EXID, was also born in the Year of the Monkey, as well as Chanyeol of mega-hit boy band EXO.

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