[FOUNTAIN]Puppies and presidents“A dog is a man’s best friend. Man is a political animal. Therefore, a dog is a political animal.” This rather provocative proposition holds true ― at least, in Korean politics.
When former National Assembly Speaker Kim Jae-sun was abandoned by President Kim Young-sam in 1993, he described his situation with an ancient Chinese parable, “Hounds are cooked when hare-hunting is over.” Intellectuals were impressed at the cleverness of the analogy.
After his term as president, Kim Young-sam waged what was called a “dog fight,” and the fight was far from decent. In February 1999, Mr. Kim harshly attacked then-President Kim Dae-jung. In response, former president Chun Doo-hwan warned him not to be so loud, comparing him to a “puppy at a village inn.” Mr. Kim immediately retorted that Mr. Chun was a “puppy in a back alley.” In effect, they were saying that the citizens of Korea had been under the leadership of puppies for 13 years, given that Mr. Chun had been president for eight years and Mr. Kim Young-sam served for five.
“Dog” has long been used as a term of contempt. One of the most insulting curses is to call someone “less than a dog” or “son of a dog.” For all ages and in all places, it has always been a foul language. In ancient Hebrew Biblical texts, “kelev,” a Hebrew word for a dog, was more often used to mean “male prostitute.” Ancient Romans used the same word for dogs and parasites. Stephen Budiansky wrote in his book “The Truth About Dogs” that Sigmund Freud said dogs had only themselves to blame for their bad reputation. Dogs would shamelessly lick their genitals, something that made people uncomfortable.
With summer bidding itself goodbye, politicians are cranking up the heat by debating dogs. The president started the trouble by saying, “If you are destined to be robbed, even a watchdog won’t bark.” Grand National Party lawmaker Chun Yeo-ok said, “Another dog deserves the president’s attention,” and compared former Blue House secretary Yang Jung-chul to a “fierce dog that drives away guests.”
The expression comes from an allegory by Han Feizi, an ancient Chinese scholar. Han thought that when there is a bad character in the court, good scholars will not come to work there, and that the nation will become weak. No matter how kind a bar owner is, and no matter how good he makes the drinks, its business will suffer if a fierce dog drives patrons away.
Whether it is fierce or gentle, a dog is a dog. Even though a dog is a man’s best friend, it is awkward for it to get involved in politics.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
More in Columns
A new epicenter of social conflict
Lessons from a president
Tales of Chairman Lee
Chinese way of tackling challenges
Time to step up climate action