[Viewpoint] Lessons from Narnia for spy agency

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[Viewpoint] Lessons from Narnia for spy agency

“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis is a fantasy novel series that has been translated into 41 languages and has sold over 120 million copies. The reason for the series’ lasting popularity is its inspiring moral: A true leader sticks to his principles and is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

In Chronicles, Aslan, the Great Lion, is the leader of the land of Narnia.

He nobly endures a humiliating and tragic death in order to end the long winter in Narnia and save a boy named Edmund, who has given in to a witch’s sweet temptation.

In the end, Aslan comes to life again and wins the war against the witch, bringing a glorious spring back to Narnia.

Through Aslan’s struggles, Lewis cleverly tells readers the importance of sacrifice and upholding your principles in the face of adversity - lessons that our own government could well heed.

On Feb. 16, a break-in at a visiting Indonesian delegate’s hotel room shocked the country.

We were all confused and stunned by allegations that there had been external pressures to cover up the incident. It looks like the break-in was a clumsy spy operation by the National Intelligence Service.

There are rumors that a police investigation had been delayed and that a power struggle within the intelligence agency resulted from the fiasco.

According to an intelligence official, such an incident is common when delegates representing the Korean government and companies go abroad. He said that the clumsy spy comedy is a bigger problem than the break-in itself.

On what grounds does he believe that any means are justifiable to serve immediate national interests? What are citizens supposed to take away from this incident?

I doubt that most people believe that it is acceptable to break into a foreign delegate’s hotel room and steal documents in the midst of an intense industrial information war.

Furthermore, the government’s argument - that because other countries commit similar acts we also need to do it - is unconvincing. There must be clear guidelines on what is admissible in the course of gathering information that serves the national interest.

It does not matter how other countries deal with similar situations. We should rise above the fray and stick to our highest principles. When we do this, we serve another kind of national interest, namely the dignity and pride of all Koreans.

If the export deal of Korean T-50 trainer jets to Indonesia falls through, it would certainly be a great economic loss for the country.

However, if we give up our principles and lose the trust of other governments in order to finalize a deal, we will suffer a great loss that goes beyond money.

This philosophy can be applied to scenarios outside of the spy agency debacle as well.

The ruling and opposition parties are competing to propose various welfare policies such as free medical services and school meals, but they do not seem to have consistent principles. Citizens can’t trust such fickle leaders.

If we follow the spy agency’s logic, universities should teach students that cheating on a test is not a problem.

Schools will also have to tell students that plagiarism is allowed depending on the situation and principles can always be broken. Is such dishonesty what we really want?

We have become accustomed to officials’ excuses that principles are only meant to be followed some of the time.

There is a prevailing culture in Korean society that values immediate results regardless of their moral costs.

Not just the intelligence agencies but also universities, businesses and the government need to set clear principles with their actions. They also need strong convictions to reject existing practices and adhere to these principles. It is the duty of leaders to supervise the entire process.

Leaders should look to Aslan’s example of protecting the souls of people who so often fall victim to life’s sweet yet fatal temptations.

Aslan could never have desired such a horrible death, yet he made the ultimate sacrifice so Narnia could prosper. The spring of Narnia was made possible through his hard choices and sacrifice.

*The writer is a professor of mass communication at Korea University.

by Ma Dong-hoon
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