[FOUNTAIN]Paying tribute“It does not feel like spring even if spring has already come.” Politicians frequently use that phrase, from “The Lament of Lady Zhao Jun,” a Tang Dynasty poem about the legendary beauty. Zhao Jun was sent as a tribute to the Xingnu by Han Dynasty.
The tributary system originated from the courtesy offering between the lord and vassals in the Western Zhou Dynasty, and it was expanded as a means of diplomacy throughout ancient China and its neighbors. However, the ruler and the ruled were often reversed.
One year after defeating Xiang Yu, Liu Bang, the first emperor of China’s Han Dynasty, found himself tied up on Baidengshan Mountain for a week when he tried to attack the Xingnu.
After barely making it off the mountain, Liu Bang had to make a humiliating peace treaty with the Xingnu. So, every time a new emperor was enthroned in the Han Dynasty, the eldest daughter had to be sent to the king of Xingnu as a concubine. In addition, more than 10 percent of the tax revenue was sent as a tribute.
Nevertheless, the Han Dynasty believed that the tribute was still far cheaper than waging war. The Xingnu also realized that their military forces were hardly enough to rule the continent. They figured it was better to threaten the neighbor with merciless pillage and extort the annual tribute. However, the demands of the Xingnu continued to grow.
The Xingnu reminds us of North Korea, which asked us to provide 40 million pairs of shoes for free.
The Sung Dynasty was prosperous economically thanks to the sea trade routes as well as the Silk Road. The Song Dynasty offered enormous tributes to the Liao and Western Xia in the North, and even to Jin and the Mongols later. In the end, the Sung Dynasty handed the entire continent over to the Yuan Dynasty.
At the inter-Korean ministerial talk, Kwon Ho-ung, the head of the North Korean delegation, said on Wednesday, “The ‘military first’ policy of the North is facilitating the security of the South, and a wide range of public benefits from it.” He absurdly argued that Pyongyang is protecting the South by developing nuclear weapons and missiles. And he shamelessly demanded half a million tons of rice, shoes, soap and other light industrial materials. It was as if Pyongyang was asking for a tribute. On Pyongyang’s missile launch, President Roh Moo-hyun had said, “I just cannot understand North Korea no matter how hard I try.” Pyongyang’s demand is way too rude as a response to President Roh Moo-hyun’s kind remark.
by Kim Jin-kook
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A battle over fiscal control
Time for a ceasefire
A dramatic about-face
A land of injustice