Real power comes from the people
We can’t predict the future, but we can look into the past. In 1775, 82-year-old King Yeongjo expressed a desire to have his grandson, who later became King Jeongjo, take care of state administration in his place. It was an alternative proposal, as his initial plan to hand over the throne to the heir was opposed by ministers. Inheriting the crown while the king is still alive is a very sensitive and complicated job. Two suns cannot be in the sky at the same time.
The ministers were nervous and confused as they had to see through to the true intention of the king. If the king really wanted to take a break, opposition would mean disloyalty. In contrast, if the king was just testing loyalty, supporting the abdication would mean treachery.
When Hong In-han, the deputy prime minister, opposed the transfer of the throne, he got it wrong. King Yeongjo dismissed Hong and he passed away less than three months later.
The Roman Empire was a society strictly based on merit. In Rome, the citizens elected the consuls based on their political competence. The emperor would hand over power only after his son gained experience and was recognized as competent to lead. If he felt the son was not up to the task, he would adopt a fitting candidate to assure legitimacy.
King Yeongjo was no different. He had Jeongjo adopted by his eldest son, Prince Hyojang, who died young. Kim Jong-il’s intention must have been similar to that of Yeongjo. He realized that he did not have much time left after having a stroke, so he hoped his son would quickly become a “dear leader.”
Nevertheless, he did not have the spirit of Rome in mind. He didn’t realize that the emperor’s power was approved by the Senate and the citizens. That’s how the Roman Empire earned respect from citizens. It is shame that Kim Jong-il did not have a chance to visit Rome in his life.
*The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Hoon-beom