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[Opinion] Minister Outside the Palace

Posted March. 04, 2004 23:35,   


A representative of the opposition party discussed Ahn Hee-jung, President Roh’s most recent attendee who recently has been suspected of transferring illegal funds as a “minister outside the palace.” Despite the fact that he is not an official figure, the reference indicates that he is indeed “a man of great power.” Mr Ahn has been mentioned as the president’s “left arm” during President Roh’s earlier administration, and the president himself acknowledged Mr. Ahn as his “colleague.” President Roh’s brother who was referred to as “the prince of Bong-ha” due to his residence in Bong-ha village in Kimhae, Kyungnam was also discussed as a “minister outside the palace.”

Previously, Kwon Noh-gap, who controlled the people and public nomination under the DJ (President Kim Dae-jung) administration without an appointment, also was referred to as a “minister outside the palace.” When he returned after four months away due to the Hanbo incident, prominent figures including approximately 30 active assemblymen flocked the airport to welcome him back. Following his registration at a specialty graduate program at a certain university, the school selected applicants even after increasing the class size by 20 students. It even came to the degree that as reporters questioned how to call him, Choo Dae-sul, the party’s advisor responded, “All Korean knows who Kwon Noh-gap is, so what difference does his title make? Just call him by his name.”

“Minster outside the palace” is an old Dynasty phrase that designates a figure of authority and power similar to that of the king. These include Hong Kuk-young, a chief secretariat for the king at the age of 29 during the early reign of King Jung-jo, who was appointed the title of Dongbu Seungji and reigned authority powerful enough to command the three prime ministers and six ministers and who eventually fell to his knees after three and a half years. It also includes Lee Ha-eung, who served regency of his song King Ko-jong and enjoyed “the spring of ‘Woon-hyun Palace’.” The terms “confidential (bok-shim),” “the other self (bun-shin),” and the titles such as “2nd rank,” “1.5 rank,” “vice president,” and “small president” are all slang that refer to “minister outside the palace.”

More specifically, the “minister outside the palace” merely refers to an “authority perpetrator” who covers the ruler’s sketchy issues, who deals with confidential requests on behalf of him while exercising power. As a consequence, in a normal country power inclines towards “the inside of the palace” instead of the “outside.” On the contrary, the final days of a ruler who relied not on the official route but on a nonofficial route suffered an unfortunate fate.

“Minister outside the palace” is also subject to experience future troubles beyond one’s authority and power. That is why Machiavelli said that “a respectable sovereign should not only know how to employ an individual but also know how to discard him”.

Editorialist Oh Myung-chul oscar@donga.com