[OUTLOOK]Best to choose moral justice

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[OUTLOOK]Best to choose moral justice

Moral justice takes wisdom, but tactics are nothing but little tricks. Moral justice is nature and discipline, but tactics are techniques and means. There are no tactics in great moral justice.
In other words, people working with moral sense do not need to devise schemes by resorting to all kinds of means, racking their brains or reading others’ minds. If there is moral sense in what one does and what one does not do, and in what one says and what one does not say, one does not lose composure even if faced with crisis.
This was the case in three prosperous periods in Chinese history when the country was at peace and the people were secure: the reigns of emperors Gaozu and Wu during the Western Han Dynasty, the reign of Emperor Zhenguan during the Tang Dynasty and the rule of three emperors from Emperor Kangxi during the Qing Dynasty. Mao Zedong would later say that “China’s future was a gift from the three wise emperors, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Guangxu.”
At the end of the reign of Emperor Kangxi, the incident of the “Hundred Scandals in the Official Circles” broke out. In the incident, Lim Baek-an, an official in charge of confidential documents in the personnel department, recorded the misconduct of figures in political and business circles. He smuggled out, hid and used the records to threaten high-ranking officials. Princes made frantic efforts to get hold of the documents and use them as a weapon in a power struggle to become emperor. At that, Yinzhing, the fourth son of Emperor Kangxi, searched for and burned the X-file boxes. He also put Lim Baek-an to death by dismemberment.
Prince Yinzhing said, “If we disclose the ‘Hundred Scandals in the Official Circles,’ the country obviously will lose its dignity and become unstable. More will be lost in the long run than will be gained. I rooted out the future troubles for the country and the people. Let us all reflect on ourselves and strive to work for the country.”
The emperor at first was angry but soon calmed down and understood Yinzhing’s thoughtfulness and gladly left his throne to him. He became the firm and wise emperor Yongzheng who built the strongest foundation for the country in Chinese history and restored the finances of the country.
In Korea, democratic fighters-turned-presidents became intoxicated and arrogant with the power they dreamed of for a long time and got busy destroying, breaking and picking sides with each other once they seized it. Their personnel and other major policies, filled with hatred, resentment and stubbornness, twisted and entangled everything like a ball that defeats its own team.
It has been said that it is an attribute of power that those in authority strive to strengthen it. To rule this way, the powerholder draws up the context for discussion as if the good and the bad were in confrontation and drives the atmosphere in such a way that no one can raise questions. As social critic Theodor Adorno expounded, the media age suspends our thinking by repeatedly projecting a particular image.
This is anti-intellectual “media terrorism” that leaves the public ignorant and turns the world upside down in the short term. George Orwell also said, “The one who rules the past rules the future, and the one who rules the future rules the present.”
Ruling the past means managing and controlling memory selectively according to collective interest. A true remaking of the past is not a one-sided judgment that continuously opens the wounds past events have left. It is to reflect on the age and for all of us to become concerned about the tragedies of the past. Think of the leadership of Nelson Mandela, who swallowed anger and rancor and concentrated national strength with forgiveness and reconciliation to stand out as an international giant.
The “X file” incident at the National Security Planning Agency, today’s National Intelligence Service, is riling the nation. There are controversies over illegal eavesdropping, about privacy infringements, about the people’s right to know and over the governing and opposition parties’ political interest and tactics in capitalizing on these controversies.
In addition to all these, some media outlets and civic groups are busy debating as if they support the wiretapping by the government agency. From suspicions over whether the recorded tape was doctored and rumors of conspiracy to passing the buck on major policy failures to the opposition, the public is confused and sick and tired. This is none other than a national disaster.
The dominant mood seems to be that the contents of the illegally recorded tape should be made public. But is it in the right direction to open the “Pandora’s Box?” Illegality leads to illegality and retaliation to retaliation. Amid the social turmoil, the dignity of the country is being damaged and national competitiveness is falling down to the lowest level even among Asian countries.
Though he had the records of scandals in the government that could have been used as weapons for political tactics, Yinzhing burned them of his own accord. His courageous decision suggests many things to us now, transcending more than 200 years. Shall we choose tactics or move toward moral justice?

* The writer is the publisher of Dongsuh Books. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Koh Jung-il
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