At what price comes talent?

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At what price comes talent?


It’s always hard to find the right person. When Cao Cao was minister in 210 in China, he issued a proclamation to recruit talented people. And the proclamation was scandalous. “If only honest scholars are promoted, how can I dominate the world? I only look at the talents, and so recommend even the ones with flaws, and I will promote based on competency alone,” said Cao Cao.

He declared the principle of prioritizing ability while ignoring status or morality. It was an unthinkable standard in promotions in a time that valued loyalty, filial piety, humanity and integrity. In 214, Cao Cao became the Duke of Wei and reissued the recruiting proclamation once again. This time, it became even more urgent.

“There is no guarantee that a righteous scholar is competent, and a competent scholar righteous. Was Chen Ping, an advisor to Liu Bang, truthful? Did Su Qin keep faith? But Chen Ping helped stabilize the Han Dynasty, and Su Qin helped the weak state of Yan. I have realized this principle, so I will not let talent go wasted or prevent them from taking a part in the government.”

In 217, Cao Cao, now the King of Wei, issued a third proclamation. He was still thirsty for talented officials. “Wu Qi was a greedy commander. He killed his wife to win trust and bought a government position with money. However, when he was with the state of Wei, Qin could not advance eastward. When he was with the state of Chu, the Qin did not pursue the south. Is there anyone who is as capable as Wu Qi? A candidate who may not be respectable but is capable of state affairs or military commanding should be recommended.”

A person of competence is so rare. There are so many people, but it is hard to find a perfect fit. 1800 year later, it is still a challenge to promote the right person. The administration is tarnished, so the ruling party has created an Emergency Leadership Council to pull it back from the brink of the abyss. However, the council’s selection of people created controversy. Cao Cao would have said the GNP is “seeking a noted doctor a thousand miles away from its deathbed.”

The doctor’s prescription is right, but you don’t want to follow it. There are two choices in the end: Scrape out the poison and live or refuse the surgery and die. Discuss the qualifications of the doctor after you recuperate.

*The writer is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom
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