[FOUNTAIN]Patriots come with varied philosophies

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[FOUNTAIN]Patriots come with varied philosophies

One of the justifications for the coup that dethroned the Joseon Dynasty ruler Gwanghaegun in 1623 was the regime’s infidelity to the Ming Dynasty.
In the early 17th century, Gwanghaegun was reinforcing the military and pursuing “equidistant diplomacy” with the Ming Dynasty and its challenger, the Jurchens. The anti-Gwanghaegun group in Korea criticized that stance as a betrayal of the Ming Dynasty, which had saved Joseon from Japanese invaders.
Four years later, 30,000 Jurchen troops crossed the Yalu River and entered the Korean Peninsula. King Injo and his supporters, who had overthrown Gwanghaegun, were so focused on preventing another coup that they had neglected national defense.
King Injo came into power to save the relationship with the Ming, but the new court had no choice but to serve its new “older brother,” the Later Jin Dynasty.
When the Later Jin Dynasty changed its name to Qing in April 1636, the new dynasty demanded Joseon to redefine its brotherhood as a relationship of sovereign and subject. Although without a reliable defense plan, Joseon rejected the demand. The country was still infatuated with its obligation to the Ming. In December 1636, the Qing sent 120,000 troops. King Injo planned to fall back to Ganghwa island, but the Qing army intercepted the retreat. The court was divided into pragmatists led by Choi Myeong-gil and anti-Qing idealists led by Kim Sang-heon. Choi ultimately drafted and sent a surrender.
Later, Kim Sang-heon and the anti-Qing faction became the heroes of Joseon. But what would have happened if their opinion had ruled and Joseon had waged war against the Qing? The realistic decision to make peace saved the dynasty. Despite the different means, the two sides had the mutual goal of saving the country.
Recently, the government’s decision to send additional troops to Iraq has met with increasing skepticism and criticism. Even some members of the governing Uri Party are asking the administration to reconsider its decision.
The ruling party chairman, Shin Ki-nam, has said that what Seoul needs today is Choi Myeong-gil’s balanced sense of diplomacy. The situation is similar to the court of Injo over 370 years ago. History repeats itself.


by Lee Se-jung

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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