&#91FOUNTAIN&#93'Spare or kill' politics

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

[FOUNTAIN]'Spare or kill' politics

Han Myeong-hoe was the chief adviser to Suyang, who in 1453 seized the throne from his nephew, King Danjong, and became Sejo, the seventh king of the Joseon Dynasty.

After purging General Kim Jong-seo, one of the biggest obstacles to his takeover of the throne, Suyang bullied his nephew into issuing a royal command calling ministers and members of the royal staff to the king's palace.

Suyang: Your highness, do not be afraid. Just give the order and we will rid you of those conspiring to revolt.

Danjong: I have no idea of who is involved in such a plot.

Suyang: Give the order, and I will take care of the rest.

Danjong: Uncle, please take care of things as you wish.

Suyang's classification of traitors and conspirators was on a roster of those to be kept alive and those to be killed, written by Han Myeong-hoe. The roster was crucial to the success of his coup d'etat, which required decisive action and precision in dividing people into friendly forces, opponents and neutral actors. High-ranking ministers on the "spare or kill roster," Hwang Bo-in, Jo Geuk-gwan and Lee Yang, were killed rushing into the palace after the royal command from Danjong.

Han Myeong-hoe, standing at the gate of the palace with the roster in hand, commanded the murders. He was awarded large areas of farmland and many servants by the new king. The Royal Chronicle of the Joseon Dynasty describes Han Myeong-hoe as "a master of scheming, a tactician with decisive judgment."

After Suyang became King Sejo, Han Myeong-hoe was imprisoned and tried for treason himself. Sejo, who always felt uncertain of his power after becoming king, was easily deceived by General Lee Si-ae's false accusations that Han was conspiring against him.

The "spare or kill roster" of Han Myeong-hoe seems to have been revived with a similar name in this political transition period. Powerful but impatient forces will be tempted to use it to cripple their political opponents.

But delicate relationships are damaged, politics becomes a barren world and trust is lost when such tactics are used. If the person who posted such a list on the Internet questions why such a fuss is being made about something done just for fun, he shows his ignorance of the power of words.

The list has shaken the political world and may boomerang; it is indeed destructive.


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
s
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now