[Viewpoint]Shades of Genghis KhanI had a good laugh when I read the newspaper last weekend. There was an article about the first secretarial meeting of the new administration. The chief of staff said, “I hope the president will rest during the weekend and leave the office on time.” The president kept silent and looked elsewhere. The secretaries and staff must have asked the chief of staff to make the request, but the president’s silence was the same thing as retorting, “What for?”
The chief of staff has become so exhausted that blisters have appeared on his lips only a few days after his appointment.
I could hear the sighs from the exhausted secretaries and staff members.
The president began the meeting by saying, “Now that we have moved into the Blue House, we have a rough road to follow. However, the more we suffer, the less the citizens suffer,” so the aides had little hope for the chief of staff’s pitiful request.
It must be very tough to assist a sleepless president. Without taking a day off during the 59 days of the transition committee, they must feel depressed to think they won’t have a holiday for the next five years. They had to have a senior secretarial meeting on Sunday, as well, by order of the president.
The secretaries might have been reminded of a quote from Genghis Khan’s Bilik, “Once you receive my order, you must get on your horse at once, even in the middle of the night.” The Bilik is the collection of Genghis Khan’s sayings that were considered law in the Mongol Empire. Scholars have put together about 30 sayings. Many of them are similar to President Lee’s orders.
First of all, the president said, “The secretaries should follow the president’s way of thinking.”
He cited the example of Dubai, where all the government officials, from sheikh to the lowest-level civil servants, share the same administrative philosophy.
Genghis Khan’s Bilik states: “All the generals ― those with 10,000 soldiers, 1,000 soldiers or 100 soldiers ― must come to me in the beginning of the year and listen to my instruction. Only then can they lead their armies without any trouble. The general who remains in his own tent and does not come to me will disappear like a stone sinking in the water or an arrow falling in the reeds.”
“The secretaries will have a hard time drinking from now on. When you go out with friends for a drink, rumors will spread. Those who like merriment should worry,” the president said.
Genghis Khan had said, “If you cannot quit drinking, then limit your drinking to three times a month. If you drink more, you will be punished. It will be good if you drink twice a month, and it will be even better if you drink only once. It would be best if you didn’t drink at all, but I cannot ask that much.” The Bilik states, “Once you go out hunting, you should shoot as many animals as possible. When you go into battle, you should kill as many enemies as possible.”
Similarly, the president of Korea always emphasizes pragmatism. On the morning of March 1, the president invited the secretaries and their wives to hand them their letters of appointment and eat breakfast early in the morning. He had invited the wives to ask them to understand that they would not be seeing their husbands for a while.
The Bilik says, “The husband cannot stay with the wife all the time like the sun. When the husband is hunting or in battle, the wife should take care of the household and keep the tent clean.”
Workaholic leaders seem to have a similar mindset, whether the ruler of the Central Asian plains or a president advocating a global Korea. Whether you swing a sword or run around with a briefcase, managing a nation is the same. I feel sorry for the secretaries, but it is pleasant to see the hardworking president push the secretaries to work even harder. There are regrets about his choice of appointments, but just as Genghis Khan’s Bilik dictates, we can start off by “dismissing the unqualified generals.” He can make up for the remaining flaws with greater achievements.
However, I am afraid he might overheat. I feel like the caring grandmother who is worried Lee might move too quickly and fail.
Genghis Khan once said, “Yesun Bei is a great warrior. He does not get tired after a long battle. Therefore, he thinks all the other soldiers have his stamina. He gets furious when others cannot perform as well. Such a man cannot become a commander. If you are to lead an army, you should get thirsty, hungry and tired with the soldiers.”
The secretaries must be exhausted working with the president, but the citizens are growing tired as well.
*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom
More in Columns
Time for pragmatism
How do we spell relief?
A battle over fiscal control
Time for a ceasefire