Black Corporation: Joseon - Chapter 14
Chapter 14 — Sprout…. Sprout of Cancer? (7)
“The second is, we must obtain a decree prohibiting excessive demands for goods from their envoys who come to Joseon.”
King Sejong became surprised at Hyang’s remarks, and the officials turned pale.
In the midst of the frozen atmosphere, the Minister of Rites raised his voice.
“Your Royal Highness! You can’t! I mean, we can’t do that, Your Royal Highness!”
“Why can’t we do that?”
The Minister of Rites quickly answered Hyang’s question.
“This Joseon is in submission to Ming. It is not right for a nation that pays tribute to protest against a subject of a great nation.”
“Why are you saying that is discourteous? Isn’t the subject of a big nation oppressing a small nation that should be called immoral? If all the sir here are true noblemen, aren’t you supposed to point out the immoral things?”
“Those who come as envoys are eunuchs. They are the closest to serving the Emperor! If they speak ill of this Joseon to the Emperor, our Joseon will be endangered!”
“Is our Joseon such a weak country? From what I have learned, 10,000 Ming troops were deployed in Liaodong because they were worried that our Joseon might invade their great nation. Is it our Joseon that makes Ming this wary, such a weak nation?”
“And are you seeing the emperor of a great nation as a slow-witted person? That he even declared war at the provocation of someone like a eunuch?”
When the Minister of Rites was getting pushed back in the verbal battle, the Chief Censor intervened.
“Since ancient times, it is natural for a small nation to be submissive to a great nation. And it is absurd for a small nation to act against a great nation. If our Joseon shows a protest, Ming and Joseon will inevitably face a military confrontation. If this happens, we have to expand our military forces, which not only wastes human resources but also becomes a heavy burden to the people. This is a shortcut to a ruined nation, none other than leaving the virtue. Of course, I really understand what is Your Royal Highness saying, but how can you think a foolish idea that will incur a great loss by pursuing a small profit when—”
“Are you just saying, incur a great loss by pursuing a small profit?! I heard that every time an envoy of Ming goes back from here, a two-kilometer road is blocked by carts loaded with goods they took away! The goods that filled those carts are property that they stole from this Joseon’s treasury and people’s warehouse! Are you saying all of this is small? If so, Chief Censor, starting from next time, you are in charge of preparing all those goods! A sage from ancient times said that the duty of a monarch and nobles is to make people live comfortably without starving! But, just because of pleasing a mere eunuch, the people are getting exploited, and the nation’s treasury is drying up. Are you saying this is the practice of virtue and contributing to society the nobles have learned?”
Hyang, who was panting because he spoke too long, collected his breath before continuing.
“And which one of the two sages—Confucius and Mencius—taught us not to be submissive but to be humiliated?”
“Your words are too outrageous! It is not to be humiliated, but—”
The Chief Censor felt Hyang had crossed the line, hence he tried to refute. Nevertheless, Hyang immediately interrupted him.
“I haven’t finished talking! It is said that a great man is to live in the largest house, stand in the most right position, and walk on the greatest road!(1) Is there any of the three above applicable to present wealth to a mere eunuch and kissing their ass? Are you all still saying yourselves as a great man? In the old days, when Qi threatened Qufu, Confucius boldly came forward to criticize that injustice and defeated them. Are you saying your action now is the same as Confucius?”
The faces of the retainers reddened at Hyang’s criticism. In this place where the King was present and the historians were recording everything, what the Crown Prince just said was none other than—you petty people!—a blatant insult.
However, Hyang still had something to say. He turned to face King Sejong, then prostrated.
“I am asking a favor to Your Majesty the King! The important officials are gathering here, but rather than people risking their lives for the national prosperity and people’s welfare, there are only those who want to spend their lives wearing silk uniforms while lying up in bed! This son will go as the leader of the envoys this time! I’ll go to petition the Emperor and stop this wrong practice no matter what! Please grant me your permission!”
“Whenever those retainers gather and open their mouths, they always recite the sages’ words and say we have to build Joseon just like those words. They say Ming is absolutely right, and they do not hide their admiration for them. But, when we strive to make Joseon like that great nation, they always use any kind of excuses to not do that. How can they claim this is not treacherous? Father! That great nation has already used coins since the Song Dynasty, and of course the current dynasty, Ming, also used coins made of gold, silver, and bronze. Furthermore, now they are starting to use gold and silver to pay taxes, not goods anymore! But, what about Joseon? Even though we’ve worked hard to make paper money for people to use since the reign of King Taejo, we kept failing! What do you think is the cause of this? This is because the national treasury is lacking! Because of this, I’m trying to fill the treasury by sending the merchants to accompany the envoys! Only when the treasury is filled, we can relieve the starving people and circulate the currency, then we can make this Joseon more prosperous! This son earnestly asks you, Father! Please let me go as the leader of the envoys this time! Although this son is only a nine-year-old kid with a small body, I’m confident that my heart is higher than high mountains!”
“Crown Prince, the road to Beijing is far and rough.”
King Sejong tried to stop him, but Hyang didn’t stop his charge.
“From what I’ve read about the western people’s history, there was a great empire called Rome. It is said that Rome started as a small city. However, one day, the ground cracked, and they needed wealth to build their nation. At that time, a young noble of Rome came forward by himself to solve the situation because Rome had nothing except their people. Was it only the western people who acted like this? Please look at the hwarangs who unified the old Samhan. Not only the government but also the men from influenced families became hwarangs and were the first to jump into the battlefield! These days, Joseon is in a crisis situation, but this is a good opportunity! If we can make good use of this situation, this Joseon will lay a foundation for a thousand years. But if we can’t, we’ll just be a small, isolated nation! Father! Please understand me!”
“Go back to your room.”
“Please understand me, Your Majesty!”
“I said go back! Eunuch! It seems like the Crown Prince is too excited! Take him back to his room and make him calm down!”
After Hyang was carried out by the eunuch and disappeared, King Sejong stared at the officials, who were bowing their heads. His eyes were filled with bloody intention.
“You petty people.”
“You are noblemen. Aren’t you supposed to be a wise man?! Even a kid about to reach 9 is ready to risk his life for this Joseon, but what are you doing?! Are you noblemen?! Are you great men?! And are you wise men?!”
“We deserve to die!”
With the lead of Chief State Counselor Ryu Jeonghyeon, all the officials prostrated and shouted their pleas to be killed.
“Do you think it is enough with you asking to be killed! If you ask to be killed, that is the end! What nation are you really from? All of you, really befitting to be called ‘yuksiral bastards’(2)!”
King Sejong, who was always polite and kept his manners, threw his manners away and scolded the retainers in a fierce tone.
“Do you know how long the Crown Prince sleeps in a day? It is no more than six hours! While that kid who hasn’t reached nine thinking over how to make this Joseon rich and powerful, and how to make the people live comfortably, that he even reduced his sleep, what is it that all of you were doing?! These rice bugs! You bastards are always looking for the impossible way rather than the possible way! If that is not a bug attitude, then what is it?! What is the use of your big body and your white hair, huh?! You petty people whose hearts are no better than children!”
“We deserve to die!”
“We deserve to die!”
“Don’t only say that, but quickly find the answer! If you can’t, then I will grant your wishes to be killed! Get lost now!”
The official quietly left at King Sejong’s thunderous roar. Meanwhile, the historians who recorded all of this wrote the following.
[Even if the Crown Prince’s remarks were extreme, there is nothing wrong with his remarks. Are the current Chief State Counselor and Six Ministers the retainers of Joseon or retainers of Ming? In order to follow the sage’s teaching, this situation where forgetting eating and sleeping for national prosperity and welfare is not enough, the six ministers only went to work wearing uniforms made of silk, but busy asking to sleep in bedding made of silk. In this kind of situation, what the Crown Prince has said is really refreshing.]
* * *
Meanwhile, Hyang, who had come back to his room, sighed after sending the eunuch off his room.
“Huff~. Fuck! I was too reckless.”
After watching the retainers’ action in King Sejong’s chamber for a long time, suddenly the situation overlapped with the situation in 21st century Korea. Because of that, Hyang went berserk.
“Does this mean I should prepare to go to Ming…. But, I have no plans for going to Ming….”
Hyang, who was analyzing what would happen due to his outburst, scratched his head nervously and came to a conclusion.
“This is a race! Either I will lose my legs or the retainers lose their position!”
Hyang made up his mind before shouting.
“Yes, Your Royal Majesty!”
“I have to prepare to go to Ming!”
“It means packing up now!”
* * *
When King Sejong heard the news—the crown prince was packing up his stuff—he abruptly stood up from his seat.
“Why is that kid packing up?”
“That…. He said that he has to go to Ming soon…. Furthermore, he said he can’t waste any second because this is for the nation and its people….”
After hearing the Head Eunuch’s answer, King Sejong stormed out of his chamber.
“This son of mine!”
In the Queen’s Palace.
“Your Majesty! Your Majesty! We’re in trouble!”
“What is it that you’re being this noisy about?”
Queen Soheon, who was reading a novel she obtained from a court lady, made a questioning look when her lady-in-waiting came and talked in a hurry.
Because she came in a hurry, the lady collected her breath first before speaking.
“His Royal Highness said he will go to Ming, and I heard he is preparing for that now!”
“The Crown Prince will go to Ming? Why? It’s not like Ming is located next to Hanseong! Why does that little kid want to go there?”
“He said the envoys from Ming who come here are exploiting our people, so he wants to stop that…. And because the ministers said it is impossible, he wants to do it by himself….”
Even before her lady-in-waiting could finish her words, Queen Soheon already stood up and ran outside.
Queen Soheon, who had roughly opened the door even before the court ladies opened it, grabbed the skirt with both hands and started running through the palace wearing only her socks.
“You girls! What are you doing?! Quickly assist Her Majesty the Queen! Your Majesty!”
The queen’s lady-in-waiting who came out to chase Queen Soheon shouted to the court ladies who were staying still like a log before back to chase the queen again.
* * *
“Huff~. Who should I recommend as the leader of the envoys?”
Kim Jeom, the minister of taxation, was agonizing over who should be the leader of the envoys. Usually, he would offer himself as the leader, but he couldn’t do it this time. If something went wrong, he could get his head beheaded by Emperor Yongle, but on the contrary, if he couldn’t do it properly, his head would be beheaded for sure when he came back.
“Who is it….”
When he was deep in his thoughts, suddenly the Minister of Personnel came running, with a pale face.
“My Lord! This is trouble! We’re in trouble!”
“What is it that makes you come without your dignity?”
“What is the use of dignity now?! We’re in trouble!”
“Are Jurchens on the move? Or is it the Japanese pirates?”
“It is better if this is Jurchens or Japanese pirates! The Crown Prince is on the move!”
“The Crown Prince?”
“The Crown Prince said he will go to Ming and is packing up his things now!”
Kim Jeom abruptly stood up at the Minister of Personnel’s words. The chair he was sitting on rolled far away, but without taking back his chair, Kim Jeom left the ministry of taxation office and ran to the palace.
(1) One of teaching by Mencius about a great man (대장부/大丈夫). What I found about this is a great man use benevolence as a foundation, manners as guidance, and follows the right path. If one holds a position in government, they should guide people to the right path, and if one doesn’t hold a position in government, they shall walk on that path alone. When one becomes rich, they don’t lose on their wealth. When one in a humble situation, they stay strong and not bend to power. ↻
(2) yuksiral(육시랄): A curse to say ‘you are befitting to get yuksi.’ Yuksi: Criminal with dead sentence, who died before the execution, will still have their head beheaded and body mutilated. ↻