[OUTLOOK]Lessons from Aesop’s fable

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[OUTLOOK]Lessons from Aesop’s fable

A fable is sometimes used as a figure of speech and its moral is often used in political rhetoric. In the last administration, one of its policies derived its name from an Aesop’s fable whose moral is that “gentle persuasion” works better than “brute force.”
The fable was a story of the north wind and the sun betting on who could get the traveler to take his coat off. The wind tried mightily to blow off the man’s coat, but he only wrapped it around him tighter. However, the sun merely radiated its gentle heat, and eventually the traveler threw off his coat, giving the sun the victory. Thus South Korea’s policy toward the North was dubbed “the sunshine policy.”
The most indispensable fable quoted by political circles, particularly by the governing party these days, seems to be about the boy who cried, “Wolf!” This story tells of a shepherd boy who gets in trouble after he keeps lying to villagers about a wolf attack, and this fable is as well known as our folk tales.
During the previous National Assembly inspection, a governing party lawmaker pointed out the overemphasis on the security function of our police. Although I can’t remember the figures he quoted in detail, his point was that there were too many intelligence officers in charge of security compared to the small number of arrested spies and other security-related criminals.
In addition, he proposed that the police organization and personnel in charge of national security be reduced and the superfluous police personnel be reassigned to maintain public order.
Although he did not say so directly, the lawmaker seemed to blame the currently bloated security organizations and personnel to the past administrations’ excessive concerns, or abuse of security. He saw the authoritarian regimes, in which the present opposition party has its roots, as having exaggerated the security situation and instigated a sense of crisis, which led to repercussions still felt even now. The past administrations were seen as the shepherd who scared the villagers and drove them to the mountainsides when he falsely shouted, “Wolf!”
Upon a closer look, the problem of human rights infringement, the most powerful rationale behind the abolishment of the National Security Law, can be viewed through the metaphor of the shepherd who scared the people by crying, “Wolf!”
In other words, those who support the abolition of the law seem to see that human rights were violated in the process of the previous administrations’ suppressing and scaring people by overemphasizing North Korea’s ambitions to invade South Korea and the danger of communism.
The basic purpose of abolishing the law seems to be preventing the naughty shepherd from deceiving the villagers by clarifying that the wolf will not come or that there is actually no such wolf.
Needless to say, liars should be denounced, and we should prevent people from benefitting from lies. In this regard, Aesop’s fable gives a lesson that cannot be ignored. The villagers came to distrust the shepherd boy, and when the wolf actually did show up, he was left to fight the wolf alone because none of the villagers believed him when he again cried, “Wolf!”
But the problem is the sheep that the wolf was able to hurt freely. If the herd belonged to the boy alone, Aesop’s lesson would be complete. Not only was he denounced spiritually through the villagers’ distrust, but he was also punished in terms of property through the loss of his sheep because of the wolf.
But if the herd of sheep belonged to all of the villagers, the fable’s lesson would be seriously undermined. Although the boy who had lied was hateful, if the villagers had let themselves be deceived for the fourth time when the wolf really came, they would have been able to protect their sheep.
A decrease in the number of security-related criminals can be seen as a good thing. But the reason for the sudden drop over the recent years cannot necessarily be a welcome one.
As the government and the Uri Party believe, the decrease could be due to the “sunshine” policy that might have effectively led North Korean authorities to revise its South Korean policy, but for a certain reason, they might or could not have arrested those who were a threat to national security.
Moreover, if the national security we want to defend refers to the sheep in the fable, we should be prudent in reducing the number of police officers and security personnel. We should not get rid of the shepherd just because he lied. What we should do is correct his bad habit of lying or replace him with a shepherd who will not lie.
It is the same with the abolition of the National Security Law. I admit that many people have suffered bitter insults because of the shepherds who have lied. But the national security that the law has tried to protect is the sheep that belong to all of us. We cannot let our sheep go astray without a shepherd on the hillside where the wolf awaits, just because there have been naughty shepherds in the past.
The government and the Uri Party should first review the abolition of the security law prudently before passing it through by the force of their majority, in case the abolition has the effect of removing the shepherd himself.

* The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Lee Moon-youl
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