Go to contents

Samjeonggeom, General`s Sword

Posted October. 18, 2013 07:21,   


In 1542, Joseon`s King Jungjong orders his men to make a "Saingeom" or "Four-Tiger Sword." Saingeom was made in the year of the tiger. In particular, the quenching process should be done during the Hour, Day, Months and Year of the Tiger on the Chinese zodiac to prevent misfortunes. However, Saheonbu (Office of Inspector General) objected, saying that it was not a good idea to make such a useless thing at a time when people were suffering from a bad harvest. Then, the king retracted his order.

The Samjeonggeom – the sword that the president bestows upon every newly promoted one-star general – is modeled after Saingeom. The sword symbolizes three spirits – national defense, reunification and prosperity. The 100-centimeter-long, 2.5-kilogram sword is inscribed with the national symbol of Taegeuk on the hilt and the presidential emblem and the national flower Mugunghwa (rose of Sharon) on the sheath. Each side of the double-edged blade is inscribed with ancient quotes calling for defeating the evil and the determination to win.

Former President Chun Doo-hwan first began to bestow the sword on every newly promoted general in 1983. At that time, the sword was single-edged. As there were criticisms that the sword resembled Western-style ones, former President Roh Moo-hyun changed it to double-edged swords. When President Kim Young-sam took office in 1993, there were criticisms that the practice of offering the sword was a legacy from previous authoritarian governments. Since Kim`s retirement, however, the military made it a practice to offer the sword to outgoing presidents. Could it be called a win-win situation?

On Wednesday, President Park Geun-hye tied a ribbon-like ornament on the Samjeonggeom of Admiral Choi Yoon-hee, new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The ornament was embroidered with the name and rank of the new appointee. Choi is the country`s first admiral to be named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He should bear in mind the meaning of the sword more than any of his predecessors.

Editorial writer Lee Jae-myeong (egija@donga.com)