Dysfunctional royals, a disappearing flag and dress codesAug. 25, 1398
Koreans say “trees thick with branches do not have a day without suffering from the wind” when they talk of the troubles of parents with too many children. King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910), was no exception. He was strong enough to overthrow the Goryeo Dynasty (918 to 1392), but not wise enough to attend to his own family. Having too many branches ― manifold wives and sons ― was the source of his disquiet, which rose to the surface when he set up the crown prince to be his heir. Favoring his second wife over the first, the king bucked the custom of setting his first son as heir. Instead he chose Bang-seok, the youngest son by his second wife, who was then 11 years old.
This did not suit the older sons, especially Bang-won, the third son, who had made vital contributions to the country’s establishment. After the nation’s founding, however, Bang-won, the object of the second wife’s enmity, was cut off from the power games.
On this date, Bang-won struck back. With his loyalists’ help, he concocted a conspiracy that had the king’s second wife and her entourage trying to eliminate the first wife’s princes. Under the pretense of preventing this dark design, Bang-won attacked the crown prince, his brother of the same mother and their loyalists. Bang-won first dethroned, then exiled, the crown prince to close in on the crown. At first he declined the crown, offering it to his older brother, the titular King Jeongjong. The reins of power soon passed to Bang-won, though the ruckus was far from over for him. His younger biological brother brought about the second Revolt of the Prince in 1400. Bang-won was superior in terms of soldiers and supporters, and finally donned the crown in November of 1400 as King Taejong.
Aug. 25, 1936
Sohn Kee-chung, the marathoner, carved his name into history, winning a gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. At the finish line, however, he was not wearing taegeukgi, the Korean national flag; his chest bore the Japanese flag, for Korea was under Japanese colonial rule at the time. The Dong-A Ilbo, a Korean newspaper, on this date ran a photograph of Mr. Sohn with the Japanese flag erased from his uniform. Japanese colonial rulers arrested the newspaper staff and suspended Dong-A’s publication for nine months. Mr. Sohn died last November at age 90 of a chronic illness.
Aug. 25, 1996
The National Police Agency on this date began to enforce a women’s summer dress code: no see-through clothes, nor dresses that expose cleavage, buttocks and other sexually suggestive body parts. The policy was aimed at controlling public morals and reducing sex crimes, the agency said. Any “indecent exposure” was treated as a misdemeanor,with fines of up to 100,000 won ($83) or detention for up to 29 days.
The police also asked lovers to control their amorous impulses on the street. Abstaining from sex in cars if passers-by could see what was going on was one example given. The police shouldered such huge responsibilities in the bad old days.
by Chun Su-jin