[Viewpoint]The opposite of cleanAhn Hee-jung, President Roh Moo-hyun’s close aide and political partner, wrote on his Internet homepage at the end of last year, “We who have been described as being part of the pro-Roh group are now a disqualified family.” He added, “We are in the same situation as those who have to prostrate themselves to ask forgiveness for their crimes.”
A “disqualified family” refers to an entire family, even the ancestors, of a person who committed a grave crime. During the Joseon Dynasty, their descendants were not permitted to apply for government positions.
Ahn compared the pro-Roh group, who lost the presidential election and had to hand over power, to such a family. His writing shows deep remorse and self-examination.
What crime on earth did these people commit? And from whom are they seeking forgiveness?
The sins Ahn himself confessed were that his pro-Roh group was not able to continue a decade of leftist government control and that it could not develop its huge governing force into a united one.
Ahn was not confessing any maladministration of state affairs nor wrong policies. He was only expressing regret about losing power because his group couldn’t concentrate its forces. The sins Ahn described were not crimes against the people. The people, in fact, were neither sad nor sorry that the pro-Roh forces didn’t stay in power. There is no reason to think that such a thing is a crime. As such, there is no need for them to publicly seek forgiveness.
Ahn had other people in mind when he asked for forgiveness. He said, “We were not able to fully fulfill our responsibility to lead and establish ourselves as a new force moving toward a new age.”
He sought forgiveness ― not from the people ― but from his colleagues. His regret was directed toward the pro-Roh forces, whose entry to the government has now been blocked. Their sin was to lose power.
The pro-Roh “386 generation,” literally met the same fate as a disqualified family.
Dasan Jeong Yak-yong, who was sent into exile in Gangjin, Jeolla, often used the term “disqualified family” in letters he sent to his son in his hometown during the early days of his exile.
“What if you did not learn and became impolite as a member of a disqualified family?” he wrote. “As you are now a member of a disqualified family, if you deal with the situation well and make our family perfect and faultless, how commendable and beautiful would that be?”
His letter was filled with a father’s mixed feelings of sorrow and encouragement for his son, whose chances to get a government job were blocked due to his actions.
But Dasan repeated the words “disqualified family” on purpose, to make his son realize the stark reality and at the same time to urge him to devote himself to his studies. A pro-Roh “disqualified family” should bear in mind what Dasan said, concentrate on their studies and politely plan for the future rather than spend time unreasonably resenting and regretting their fate.
Bureaucrats without their spirit belong to a dirty family.
The opposite of a disqualified family is a clean family. This refers to a family without any blemishes. Its descendants are able to secure government positions because their ancestors did not commit any crimes.
In today’s terms, they are people without any defects who have a faultless career history. However, Dasan did not look at clean families with much approval, either. In his letter to his son, Dasan said, “When you are a clean family, you do not need to learn. If you belong to a disqualified family, you can still get married and exempted from military service, but what would you do if you did not learn anything?”
He referred to the children of a noble family who made a living with their family’s connections, without ever making any effort for themselves, even though they had no obstacles to entering the government service. Such people have the appearance of being qualified, but their abilities have not been verified.
People who claim to be from a clean family seem to be swarming around the presidential transition committee, looking for posts in the new administration these days. But those “clean” family members should be appointed with careful discernment.
The member of the pro-Roh forces, who now says he belongs to a disqualified family, originally advocated clean living. In addition, even bureaucrats, who they say would do anything to preserve their posts ― even give up their soul ― are trying to join the clean family to seek a government position. They say they are a clean family without any crimes who did what they were forced to do by the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
They are people who do not care about other people at all. Instead, they are skilled at jumping from administration to administration and applying the beliefs of the people in power only for the sake of their own success.
Such bureaucrats who disturb the order of the public service community do not belong to a clean family, but to a dirty one.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo