Political ‘hospitality’ harder to swallow

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Political ‘hospitality’ harder to swallow


The Chinese workers had put all their lunch items in one bowl. I was quite surprised to see the mixed bowl of rice at the cafeteria of a modern factory in China I visited during my field investigation. Frankly, I didn’t know what to say when factory executives invited me to have lunch with them. I was not ready for the mysterious mixture of food.

However, they invited me to a separate room inside the cafeteria, where a 12-course meal was served. Over the extravagant lunch, they explained the background of my research topic and pointed out some of the flaws in my investigation. We had an in-depth discussion. When gathering news in China, having a lunch with sources is common. Some days, I ate four or five meals. The Chinese were masters of the art of having a meal with a stranger, and they satisfied my curiosity as well as appetite.

During the trip to China, my questions on Chinese classics were resolved. For example, you can find more banquet scenes than battle scenes in “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” In almost every chapter, the characters have visitors, throw a banquet and have a discussion. When the messenger from the enemy arrives, he would be offered a meal first, if he was not killed immediately. Mi Heng stripped naked and condemned Cao Cao in front of his ministers. But when Cao Cao drove away Mi Heng to Liu Biao, Cao Cao ordered a banquet for Mi Heng. The history of politics over a meal continues.

At the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, ending the practice of treating guests with a lavish meal is being discussed in order to eradicate corruption among public servants. As the public servants have meals together, the corruption and wrongdoings have been arranged. When the era of Xi Jinping began at the end of last year, anti-corruption became the keyword of the times. Public agencies are preparing a no-alcohol policy and standards for receptions and hospitality for public servants. There has been discussion that decreasing receptions and entertainment of public servants resulted in the slowdown in spending growth over the New Year’s holiday and negative growth in restaurant and hotel revenues.

However, it is not easy to eradicate the hospitality culture. There are rumors that more confidential and covert receptions are offered instead of lavish meals at hotel restaurants.

Lately, Korean government agencies have been working to end the practice of excessive receptions and entertainment for public servants by issuing “meal coupons of integrity.” The wine-and-dine culture in Korea is as old and strong as that of China, and much corruption begins with the simple offer of “Let’s have dinner together.” So it makes sense to control how this “dinner” goes.

I feel sorry for innocent food that gets the blame.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Sunny
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