Get the attacks out of our elections

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Get the attacks out of our elections

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The Latin phrase ad hominem refers to an argument based on prejudice or emotion rather than reasoning or intellect. Often, it refers to a character assault. The focus is on insulting and embarrassing someone rather than providing facts and a logical claim about a valid issue. By blurring the point of a matter, an ad hominem attack is an effective tactic for discrediting a debater in a vulnerable position.

There is a notable case of ad hominem from ancient China: the case of Yue Fei versus Qin Hui in the Southern Song Dynasty. Along with Zhuge Liang, Yue Fei is praised as a symbol of loyalty among the Chinese, even today. He is also worshiped as a military god. Yue Fei led a series of victories against the Jin Dynasty and was very popular among the people as he made sure that farmers and merchants did not suffer damage from battles.

But Yue Fei was a nuisance to the Song aristocrats, who had run away to the Zhejiang region and settled in the interim capital of Hangzhou. They hoped to finish the war as soon as possible and have a leisurely life enjoying the scenery of Lake Xihu.

So Qin Hui sent a fake imperial order summoning Yue Fei in order to deprive him of his military leadership. Yue Fei was executed, and the Song Dynasty became a subordinate state of the Jin Dynasty after signing a humiliating treaty. Later, a general accused Qin Hui of being responsible for Yue Fei’s death and asked what the charges against Yue Fei were. In response, Qin Hui said, “There were probably some charges.”

Not much has changed over time. Negative personal attacks never fail to appear in elections in Korea. The election campaign for the mayor of Seoul was no exception, and we are left with the debris of the candidates’ ad hominem attacks.

Hopefully, we can change this practice and set an example for future generations. Let’s review the campaign to investigate who made unfounded attacks. The authorities must investigate the legal complaints and accusations made by both sides. We should not let these issues go just because the election is over.

Yue Fei’s honor was later restored and he was posthumously reinstated as King Yue. Qin Hui, meanwhile, is remembered as the most villainous minister in the history of China. In front of Yue Fei’s grave, there is a statue of Qin Hui kneeling down in prisoner’s clothing. Today, the statue is off limits to visitors, but it was once common for people to kick or spit on the statue. The fate of the false accuser remains the same in the elections of today.

*The writer is the J Editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Lee Hoon-beom

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