[FOUNTAIN]A time of unrest for law

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[FOUNTAIN]A time of unrest for law

The Chinese character for “law” is made up of “water” and “go.” There is a theory that the character was created to mean “following the reasons like the water flows,” but it is only a theory.
The character actually has been abbreviated, and the original character consists of “water,” “haechi,” and “go.” The original character for “law” has one more element, “haechi,” compared to the character we use today. There is a reason it contains a haechi, an imaginary animal resembling a lion but with a horn on its head. The ancient Chinese text “Yiwu Zhi,” a book of strange objects, describes haechi as “an animal that inhabits the wild land of the eastern frontier. With a horn on its head, it has the head of a cow and the face of a horse. It has cloven hooves and the body is covered with blue scales. Honest and upright in mind, it will bump against the evil person when it sees people fighting. When people are arguing, it will bite the one who is wrong.” Gao Yao, who was in charge of punishment in the days of King Yao and Shun, raised a haechi. He would bring the animal out in order to determine whether a person was guilty.
Bao Qingtian of the North Song Dynasty, who is revered as the best of the Chinese judges, wore a hat decorated with a haechi. Just like the mythical creature, he was strict in judging right from wrong, and during his 30-year-long tenure, he forced more than 30 officials who were higher than him to step down. It was unprecedented in Chinese history. During his time, a song spread among the commoners that the only two people who could not be bribed or deceived were King Yama of Hell and Bao Qingtian.
These days, the law is undergoing ordeals. The number of cases of contempt of court increased by 400 times this year compared to five years ago. As instances of legal corruptions are revealed one after another, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made a public apology last month.
The government will surrender on anything if the public presses hard enough, and some people cynically joke that the law of demand is higher than the Constitution. The Minister of Justice even pledged that he would do his best not to yield to the law of demand during his term.
As the Blue House resorted to an expedient, the post of the president of the Constitutional Court, the guardian of the highest law of all, was left unoccupied. The law is struggling in the administration of a former lawyer. Even if we call a haechi, the symbol of righteousness might be confused about whom to bite.


by Yi Jung-jae

The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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