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Talking about seppuku by politicians

Posted November. 22, 2017 09:10,   

Updated November. 22, 2017 09:17


Seppuku, suicide by disembowelment, frequently appears in the epic novel “Ieyasu Tokugawa,” written by Sohachi Yamaoka. Once a defeated samurai plunges a short blade into the abdomen, slicing the abdomen open, a warrior standing next to him cut off his head with a long sword. Seppuku is the most extreme way of killing oneself. Seppuku was banned by law in 1867 during the Meiji Restoration. Back in 1976, Japanese former Prosecutor General Huse Takeshi mentioned seppuku during the investigation into the Lockheed Bribery Scandal. He silenced the opposition from the political circle by saying, “I will cut open my stomach if the defendant is ruled not guilty.”

On April 11, 1975, Kim Sang-jin, a senior at Seoul National University, committed suicide by disembowelment. While reading a declaration of conscience on a podium, he performed seppuku leaving the last sentence, “In the grave, I will watch you making an advance with awakened soul and a smile on my face” unspoken. His death was a spark that kindled a flame on the students’ resistance against the Park Chung-hee regime, which resulted in a collapse of the regime. Like Kim Sang-jin’s words “Democracy is fed on blood,” a lot of sacrifices have been made on the way to achieving democracy in Korea.

In early January after the impeachment of the former President Park Geun-hye, some members of the then Saenuri Party exchanged war of words over seppuku. Pastor In Myung-jin, then interim leader of the Saenuri Party, targeted Seo Cheong-won, pro-Park lawmaker, by saying, “For an incident like this, people perform seppuku in Japan.” Then Seo hit back at him by saying, “When do you want me to perform seppuku?” Reform of the party was nowhere to be seen with lawmakers spitting ugly words such as “running away after pooping” and “pastor forcing people to suicide.”

On last Thursday, Choi Kyong-hwan, leader of pro-Park lawmakers, strongly resisted against allegations that he received 100 million won in bribes from the National Intelligence Service (NIS), by saying, “I will perform seppuku in front of the East Daegu station if the allegation is true.” Five years ago, lawmaker Park Jie-won, who was embroiled in an investment bank scandal, tweeted that he would “perform seppuku in front of the Mokpo station.” He was found not guilty in the first trial, guilty in the second trial, and not guilty in the third trial. At dawn in March 1998, Kwon Young-hae, director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, cut his stomach several times with a box cutter while he was under investigation for conducting a massive disinformation operation. His failed suicide attempt was concluded “self-harm” by the prosecution. Talking about seppuku is uncomfortable even as a way of pleading one’s innocence.