Swords and causes worth fighting for

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Swords and causes worth fighting for


In Korea, a prosecutor is often likened to a swordsman, and there are a few theories why. The Korean words for prosecutor and swordsman have the same pronunciation. A prosecutor has the exclusive right of indictment, which can restrain personal freedom. Dike, the Greek goddess of moral order and justice, is often depicted as a woman with a sword and scales. In 2002, a head prosecutor at the Central Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office wrote a controversial poem titled, “A Sad Story of a Swordsman.”

A swordsman is rated on his swordsmanship. Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), a legendary samurai in Japan, believed a state of emptiness was the highest way for a swordsman. When a swordsman learns his skill but is not bound by it, knows the enemy but does not hate him, and empties his mind, the sword in his hand becomes unbeatable. Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi found art in the movement of the knife of a butcher. “He moved the blade, making a noise that never fell out of rhythm. It harmonized with the Mulberry Woods Dance, like music from ancient times.” The butcher said he met the ox with his mind rather than with his eyes. It is the way of swordsmanship to move the blade “according to natural laws, striking apart large gaps, moving toward large openings.”

But fancy skill does not make a swordsman a master. He must train both his skills and mind. When he has a grand cause, he will be considered a master and a legend. A hero is born when he fights for his country and lord, to safeguard the peace of the world, or to defend society against a villain. In the 1960’s, Wang Yu, the star of “The One-Armed Swordsman” series, began the golden age of Hong Kong martial arts movies. Hwang Jeong-min’s role as a blind swordsman in “Blades of Blood” is such a character fighting for a great cause.

Nam Ki-choon, head of the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office, resigned abruptly. As his nickname, “Swordsman,” suggests, he led investigations into slush funds and conglomerates. He did not bend to external pressure and was known for his aggressive investigation style. Critics say that dichotomizing everything into good and evil is backward. Supporters argue that it is the fate of a swordsman. Clearly, the age of prosecutors as swordsmen is ebbing. However, they must not lose the spirit of a hero who values the swordsmanship of emptiness and grand causes.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Ko Dae-hoon
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