[FOUNTAIN]Time for some pillow talk

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[FOUNTAIN]Time for some pillow talk

"Who can resist the sweet words of pillow talk?"

Those who have been near those with absolute power have often spoken such words, suggesting that there is a power behind the throne. No appointment needed; full attention from the mighty one ?the soft whispers of a woman have often changed the course of events, be those whispers about something trivial or more important, like a favor for a relative.

Historical soap operas on television these days have a common theme. They all deal with the power that relatives of Korean queens exercised during the Joseon Dynasty. The dramas deal with the three most powerful families of the Joseon Dynasty: Queen Moonjung's Yoon lineage, the Min lineage of Queen Myungsung and the Kim lineage out of Andong of Queen Sunwon.

In our long history, if we have to name the person who wielded the most power behind the throne, no one would argue that Lee Ja-gyeom would take the honors for his feats in the Goreyo Dynasty, which immediately predated Joseon from 918 to 1392. His lineage is called Inju Lee, after the name of the town from which it sprung. The reason for his unprecedented power was the Goreyo Dynasty's acceptance of marriages within a family.

It seems that Lee took full advantage, sending his second daughter to King Yejong; she became the mother of King Injong. When his son-in-law died, Lee did not hesitate to put his grandson on the throne even though he was only 14 at the time. The next step he took to cement his position was to send his third and fourth daughters to his grandson as royal wives. Although it would be impossible these days, he succeeded in becoming the father-in-law and the grandfather of his grandson at the same time.

His powers were unmatched; his birthday was designated "Inju Day" and he received formal greetings from court officials then. While the rest of the country was on its knees weathering a famine and 9 out of 10 homes were facing starvation, in Lee's house meat was said to have rotted. He even put the king under house arrest when he got wind that the king was trying to rein in his unofficial authority.

Often, the powerful are alone. Some former presidents have said that the presidential mansion turns into a prison without bars at night. In such a place, who else is there to talk to but the one person who shares your bed? I can close my eyes and imagine that on these long winter nights, the nephew of the president's wife is probably a frequent subject of our president's pillow talk.

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang

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