Go to contents

Kim Ki-choon and poison order

Posted June. 30, 2017 07:29,   

Updated June. 30, 2017 07:46


The integrity of classical scholars of the Joseon Dynasty and the samurai spirit of the Japanese Edo period were all based on Neo-Confucianism. Korean scholars had to have the courage to take poison from the king, and samurais were required to be brave enough to disembowel themselves if need be. Poison orders by the king were a favor in recognition of the status of scholars. In fact, poison was not included the penal code. Poison orders were never issued to farmers. Had it been a samurai, not a Joseon scholar, he would have been forced into disembowelment.

“I would rather take poison and have it all finished without a trial,” said former Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Ki-choon during his court trial looking into his charges of orchestrating the compilation of the disputed blacklist. His remarks are not intended to admit to his charges. Rather, Kim is expressing regrets over his inability to take care of Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who has been impeached and now is behind bars, likening his position to a chief royal secretary of a fallen dynasty, who would have been ordered to take poison by the new king. Whether he is found guilty or not, it appears that he only hopes that the trial will pass soon.

Kim says it is his only wish to die outside the prison, reflecting the fact that he is in such awful shape. The controversy over the blacklist was first raised in 2015 when Culture and Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan was a member of the National Assembly. In fact, before the investigation was launched by the special prosecution, the matter was perceived as a mistake worth chastising, not a punishable criminal act. In a way, giving a poison order is somewhat more humane than locking up and interrogating a 78-year-old man with stents installed in his blood vessels.

It is not desirable of him to keep denying the charges over the blacklist, either. Evading law enforcement is a quality unbecoming of a self-styled scholar demanding to take poison. He could not step down from his position when his own son fell into the state of brain death. Neither the one who asked him to stay nor the other who accepted the request is humane, but what is clear is that the former chief presidential secretary valued his role as a public servant very much. While he pursued promoting public value, the way to do so was simply wrong. It’s not just the blacklist. His inability to offer honest advice to the former president alone is a grave fault.