[VIEWPOINT]Media Should Heed Story of 2 Peaches

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[VIEWPOINT]Media Should Heed Story of 2 Peaches

Yanzi was one of the most outstanding politicians of China's Spring and Autumn Period, which lasted roughly from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century B.C. As a prime minister of the state of Qi, he strived to transform the luxurious lifestyle of the Qi people into one of thrift and frugality.

In the Analects, a collection of conversations Confucius held with his followers that was compiled after his death, the Chinese philosopher was recorded as praising Yanzi for his respect for others and his ability to get along well with everyone. In fact, Yanzi was not only a great politician but a man of many talents. An anecdote is testimony to his ingenuity.

There were three knights in the state of Qi who shared the duty of guarding the king. However, the three knights became very arrogant and behaved in a high-handed manner as the king placed greater trust in them and the respect they enjoyed from the people grew. Thinking they might be troublesome if their arrogance went unchecked, Yanzi advised the king to eliminate them. Although the king agreed with the wise prime minister, he hesitated for fear of the knights' growing power. Then the master strategist came up with a splendid idea.

Accepting Yanzi's suggestion, the king presented the three knights with two peaches. He then ordered that only the two who were the most distinguished among the three would be allowed to eat the peaches. There then erupted a bloody fight between the three knights over who was better than the others, with the result that the three killed each another.

The main point of the story is not whether we should admire Yanzi's cleverness or label the three knights as stupid for losing their lives over mere fruit. The four-Chinese-character-idiom, to "kill three knights with two peaches" refers to a situation where one uses clever strategies to lead enemies to destruction.

Newspapers have strongly resisted the government's plan to legislate regulations against what it describes as unfair practices by media companies. They contend that the initiative, being implemented concurrently with audits by the National Tax Service on media firms, is a thinly disguised government attempt to suppress the media.

The debate over whether the government's move is an attempt to suppress or reform the media is gaining heat. What I cannot understand observing the progress of the debate are the accusations and attacks among newspapers and among television broadcasters and newspapers. Newspaper A berates newspaper B, using unrepeatable expressions, while broadcaster C openly slams newspaper D. In turn, newspaper D attacks broadcaster E. The media, supposedly a force for balance in society, is fighting a fratricidal battle in which there will be no winners and where the only guarantee is universal denigration. Today, the power of the media could be considered on par with that of the three knights. At the same time, the three knights who came to destruction through fighting over peaches after they came to be thought of as a source of future calamity can be likened to today's media companies. They are squabbling over the metaphoric equivalent of peaches, oblivious to the possibility that the new legislation might be a sign of the government's resourcefulness to undermine their position.

The fight among the media companies, which are regarded as a parallel government in modern society, could create a situation where society permanently loses its trust in them. The media is society's check on the powers that be; if the media loses the trust of the governed then the only foreseeable consequence will be that the media will be the subject of their wrath. Now is the time for the media to think what they have fought over; it behooves them to think seriously about the two peaches that induced three knights to accuse, denounce and destroy one another.

There was more to those two peaches than just being fruit for eating. I hope for rather less credulousness on the part of the media.


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The writer is a novelist.


by Choi In-ho

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