[FOUNTAIN]Horses, history and corruptionHere comes 2002, the year of the horse. In the Chinese calendar, one of the schemes for counting years is a 12-year cycle. Twelve animals, including the horse, are used to represent these 12 years. Past years of the horse have been significant in history.
The popular TV drama, "The Empress Myeongseong," recently dramatized an army rebellion in 1882, another year of the horse. The Joseon Dynasty's old-fashioned troops rose in revolt in June 1882 against the state's preferential treatment of the better-outfitted troops that Japan had trained for the kingdom, and also out of anger because of delayed payment of their wages.
The rebels drove out Empress Min, better known as Myeongseong, and her faction that supported an open-door policy. Daewongun, the father of Empress Min's husband King Gojong, was returned to power. But the coup d'etat ended in failure a month later; Daewongun was abducted by the Chinese Qing Dynasty's army to Tianjin, China.
The 1882 rebellion seems to have resulted from a power struggle between Empress Min and her father-in-law. But it was actually a fight between open-door and closed-door policy supporters. It was an important turning point because both sides sought alliances with outside powers, accelerating the Joseon Dynasty's collapse.
The insurrection taught that if power is concentrated and the powerful become corrupt, even the good aims of the group will fade away. Though Empress Min's supporters originally wanted to both open the nation's doors and keep the dynasty, they brought about the coup d'etat through their monopoly of power and their corruption. The old-fashioned troops had not been paid for 13 months, while Empress Min's people and the new-style troops lived the good life.
The year 1762 was another year of the horse. Jeong Yak-yong, one of the greatest scholars in Korean history, was born at a village near Namyangju city, Gyeonggi province, in June of that year. Over his 75-year life, he wrote books that were a lasting gift to the Korean people. As if he had forecast the army rebellion in 1882 and the corruption scandals of 2001, he wrote in one book, "Incorruptibility is the fundamental rule that a local government head must follow, the source of every good and the root of every virtue. One who is corruptible cannot head a government office."
We cannot waste more time in corruption scandals. We should follow the lesson of a forerunner who was born in the year of the horse.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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