Power has a stern and cold attribute, but is sometimes warm as well. Yeonam Park Ji-won, a writer in the Joseon dynasty, is a good example of that. According to “Gwajeongrok” written by his son Park Jong-chae, he was distressed every time he had to order flogging as a government official. When he had no choice but to order it, the Joseon scholar sent someone afterwards to give a massage to bruises. But he was not a perfect man. He was also shackled to the self-righteousness and obstinacy of the era, which believed words of Confucius was absolute truth. The thought that everyone was equal was suppressed. But he never lost his warmth in any situation.
When he was the governor of Myeoncheon county in the Chungcheong region from 1797 to 1800, many residents were Catholic. He thought they were dangerous people who did not respect their own father and king as they refused ancestral rites and believed everyone was born equal. It was how King Jeongjo and mainstream intellectuals saw them. He had to punish them for felony. But flogging them made him feel uneasy. Hitting and browbeating them “was an abuse of punishment and a fight between the government and the people,” he said in a letter to an auditing official at the time.
Park abandoned flogging. He invited Catholics for consultation every night after work. When they opened their mouth to talk with difficulty, he elicited clues from their words to ask questions, guide and explain repeatedly. They opened up their mind and even cried when Park quietly persuaded them even though they never budged in the face of severe punishment. It was thanks to his efforts that there was no death at all in Myeoncheon county in the Catholic Persecution of 1801. Park did not lose his warmth even though he did not understand the essence of another religion whose outlook of the world was quite different from patriarchal Confucianism.