[FOUNTAIN]Watch your tongueA ruler who lacks confidence and is not very clever may try to glorify himself through inviting flattery. During the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Sung Dynasty, most of the territories were invaded and taken by the Jurchens. The emperor had made two patches of rice paddies in the palace and bragged that he understood the agony of the farmers suffering from famine and flood. Despite this absurd vaunt, his ministers still had to flatter him by saying that no ruler in history could compare to Emperor Gaozong. While a loyal subject is supposed to point out faults to the ruler himself and help him correct mistakes, in fact, those in power often cannot stand criticism.
Emperor Taizu of the Ming Dynasty even operated a secret police unit. The secret agents wore white leather shoes and watched not only the ministers and officials but also the civilians. They were so brutal that they would kill a person for simply making an inappropriate comment. The people were frightened at just the sight of white leather shoes. Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty installed a copper box for anonymous reports, and Yongzheng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty controlled the sayings and doings of officials by operating a complex surveillance system.
During the reign of the Tianqi Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, four men got together over drinks. One of them got very drunk and began criticizing Wei Zhongxian for oppressive control. Wei Zhongxian, a former hoodlum, was a eunuch who had an affair with the emperor’s wet-nurse and swayed the emperor’s absolute power through manipulation. Wei Zhongxian killed the man who had spoken ill of him by peeling the skin off the man.
During the Kim Young-sam administration, intelligence gathered by the National Security Planning Agency would be reported to Kim Hyun-chul, the second son of the president. When someone informed the president of the high-handed conduct of his son, Kim Hyun-chul would immediately call and issue a warning. Then-Chief of Staff Park Kwan-yong and the Chief of the Office of Presidential Security, Park Sang-beom, are said to have been dismissed because they tried to inform the president about the arbitrary behavior of his son.
One of the reasons for the dismissal of Yoo Jin-ryong, former vice minister of culture and tourism, is because he said “Immature 386ers were ruining the nation.” A diplomat who criticized the president over a drink had been reprimanded. While the National Intelligence Service has changed drastically, it is still risky to make a comment that goes against the “codes” of the Blue House.
by Kim Jin-kook
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.