UPDATE : 2017.9.15 금 01:43

[Vol. 75] History Behind History

황경림 기자l승인2016.06.22l수정2016.06.22 17:01

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  For most KNUE students, the importance of studying history can never be doubtful. Every single student planning to apply for the teacher certification examination must obtain a state certificate of level three or higher attesting to their knowledge of Korean history. However, memorizing historical events during the past five millennia is not an easy job. Those of you who took the Korean history examination last winter, secluded in a library or somewhere else taking more than a hundred internet lectures over several weeks, might have found yourselves repeating, uttering swearwords unconsciously and then feeling guilty right after that. However, unlike what we have felt while cramming for the exam, history is not something that only exists in the dry text. For example, the following anecdotes about the kings of the Joseon Dynasty will tell you more.   


Taejong and his recorder with great professional spirit 
In the Joseon Dynasty, every movement of a king was recorded by a dedicated recorder. During the reign of Taejong, the recorder was so devoted to his work that he even recorded Taejong taking a false step. Taejong, with shame, asked him to erase that. Now, if you look at the annals of Taejong, you can see the record at that exact time: The king took a false step while he was walking across the garden. He ordered the false step not be recorded and also required not to record the order. Taejong felt bothered about the recorder, so he went far away to hunt so that the recorder could not chase him. Of course, the devoted recorder galloped right behind the king and didn't miss anything. 


Sejong the carnivorous
Reflecting upon his well known generosity toward people and countless achievements, it is hard to imagine Sejong whining about food. But, this man who got a reputation for being one of the greatest kings of the Joseon Dynasty was actually a notorious meat lover. When he was a little child, during a time when everyone in the country was banned from having meat due to a national accident, Taejong, Sejong's father, allowed Sejong exclusively to eat meat solely because he knew his son would starve to death if no meat was included in his diet. Even in his last will Taejong wrote "Let my son have enough meat." And when he went down to the countryside for the sake of experiencing folk life, rain started to fall down while he was plowing and all of a sudden he hit the cow he was working with to death and made soup with it.   


Jeongjo and Jeong Yakyong
Jeong Yakyong, who is known as one of the most talented characters of the Joseon Dynasty, was a retainer that any king would have desired. Jeongjo also cherished him a lot, but sometimes his excessive love seemed to make Yakyong suffer psychological and physical stress. Jeongjo, who had gone through a tough childhood surrounded by countless political enemies, was famous for being harsh to people, but not to Yakyong as he was exceptionally kind. Since he found out that Yakyong was born in 1762 when his father had died, Jeongjo considered him very special and continuously tried to give him high positions. However, Yakyong kept failing and Jeongjo, offended by his repeated failures, is recorded to have thrown a pillow. When Yakyong finally got a position, Jeongjo gave him private lessons and often called him into his room to bully him. While Yakyong was not fond of drinking alcohol, Jeongjo was a severe alcoholic. He often poured alcohol into Yakyong's pencil case and forced him to drink it.
 
  An Italian philosopher, Croce, had remarked that "All history is contemporary history." Though they wore straw shoes instead of sneakers, the lives of people in the past were not much different from those of the present. For example,  a record shows that Gojong had ordered a telephone line be connected to Empress Myeongseong's grave so he could call to his deceased wife every day demonstrates that King Gojong and Empress Myeongseong were like any ordinary couple today who love and cherish each other. Rather than memorizing history as a dry text, trying to communicate with people in the past will help you realize that history is not something that is very far away from you.


황경림 기자  monicamorris@naver.com
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