A history of bold appeals (KOR)

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A history of bold appeals (KOR)


The author is the head of the financial planning teamof the JoongAng Ilbo.

The manuscript of an appeal from a family in Chungcheong was released to the media in December 1972. The appeal was written by Chowol, a 15-year-old gisaeng — the Korean equivalent of geisha — in Pyongyang in 1846 during the reign of King Heonjong, during the late Joseon Dynasty.

The 20,000-word appeal was unreserved. “The court is filled with thieves with friendly faces who confuse the state administration, and vassals become robbers, and subjects are in despair.” She also condemned the king, saying “The king drinks until late at night and cannot keep the balance.” She also listed instances of corruption by high-level officials, designating them by their real names, “I am disclosing the conduct of the three prime ministers, six ministers and other civil and military officials to the lowest government officials.”

When the content of the appeal was reported by the media, the intelligence agency visited the owner of the copy of the appeal and demanded he hand it over. Why did the spy agency try to acquire the appeal by a plain courtesan from the Joseon Dynasty?

Because its content was so harsh that it seemed to be criticizing the Park Chung Hee regime, not just the Joseon court. In October 1972, the government declared emergency martial law to establish the October Yushin (Restoration) system, and enforced the Yushin Constitution in December.

Harsh appeals written by ordinary citizens often appealed to the hearts of the people. In 1992, before the presidential election, a bank branch manager in his 50s published a book titled “Shinmungo: An appeal to the Seventh Republic,” a compilation of 80-point appeals. In 2000, an incumbent civil servant in his 30s published a post on the Blue House website titled “New Danseongso.” Danseongso refers to the resignation letter written by renowned scholar Cho Sik (1501-72) during the reign of King Myeongjo during the Joseon Dynasty. In the appeal mimicking Danseongso, the civil servant harshly censured President Kim Dae-jung. “You are an old man in the deep palace surrounded by curtains and blocked from outside news,” he wrote.

The post on the Blue House petition site also created a stir, and led to satires and parodies. I am interested in how the Blue House would have responded to the petition.

The old format of an appeal is still valid — not simply because of the author’s outstanding writing skills. Famous appeals in the Joseon Dynasty were also bold; the authors risked their lives to speak out against the king. The art of scholarly argument may still be valid today. 


 한애란 금융기획팀장


1972 12 충청남도 집안에서 전해 내려오던 상소문 필사본 책자가 언론에 공개됐다. 조선 헌종 때인 1846 평양기생 초월이 상소문이었다

15 어린 기생이 2 넘는 상소문은 거침이 없었다. “좋은 얼굴을 도적이 조정에 가득해 국사를 어지럽히니, 신하는 강도가 되고 백성은 어육(魚肉) 되어 도탄에 빠졌다 조정 세태를 한탄하고, “임금의 자리에서 밤늦게 술을 마셔 눈이 게슴츠레하고 몸을 가누지 못한다 술에 빠진 임금을 질타했다. “3정승 6판서로부터 문무백관 미관말직에 이르기까지 문무 제신들의 행각을 낱낱이 밝혀서 고하겠다면서 실명으로 고관들의 부패상을 조목조목 명시했다

상소문 내용이 보도되자 정보기관이 소장자를 찾아가 책자를 건네 달라고 요구했다. 조선시대 기생 상소문을 챙겨갔을까

내용이 워낙 통렬해 조선의 국정이 아니라 마치 박정희 정권을 비판하는 같은 착시를 불러일으켰기 때문이다. 정부가 유신체제 수립을 위해 비상계엄을 선포하고(10) 유신헌법을 공포·시행했던(12) 뒤숭숭한 시절 이야기다

평범한 이들이 송곳 같은 상소문이 국민들 마음을 흔드는 일은 이후에도 종종 있었다. 대선을 앞둔 1992년엔 50 중반의 은행 지점장이 80 항목의 상소문을 엮은 『신문고: 7공화국에 올리는 상소문』 책을 펴내 공감을 받았다. 2000년엔 30대인 계장급 현직 공무원이 청와대 홈페이지에() 단성소 제목으로 쓴소리를 올린 것이 화제였다. 조선 명조 남명 조식의 사직상소문단성소 모방한 글은각하는 장막에 둘러싸여 밖의 소식에 막힌 구중궁궐 늙은이라며 적나라하게 비판했다

청와대 국민청원글시무 7 신드롬을 일으키고 있다. 풍자와 패러디가 봇물 터진 이어진다. 청원에 대해 청와대가 과연 어떤 답변을 내놓을 것인가에 관심이 쏠린다

상소문이란 오랜 형식이 지금도 통하는 글쓴이의 남다른 필력 때문만은 아닐 것이다. 조선시대 유명 상소문엔 목숨을 걸고 임금에게 직설을 날리는 배포와 기개가 충만했다. 바로 선비정신의 미학이 2020년에도 여전히 유효한 것이 아닐까

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