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The Insane Magistrate

2006-07-09 00:48

  It was a long time ago. There was a local magistrate, called won, who was notorious for his insensitivity and harshness in his judgments. He was not evil as a person, but his tribunal judgments were unreasonably harsh and his sentencing merciless. Because of this reputation, not only the townspeople but also even the officials under him were all afraid of the magistrate. No one dared to complain about him openly.

  One day, a senior official felt that he could not bear with the magistrate any longer. “It is time something were done about all this,” said he to himself. So, he gathered all the officials together secretly. “Gentlemen, if we allow this present situation to continue, sooner or later we may all get killed. We don't want to be flogged to death, nor can we run away without getting caught. It is high time we did something. What do you think? Do you have any suggestions, gentlemen?” A few officials suggested that the magistrate be done with. “Let us avoid such a rather reckless act,” said the senior official. “How about this idea, then?” and an official approached and whispered to the senior official. “An excellent idea, indeed! Let us follow the idea.”

  Next morning, without knowing what was going on around him, the magistrate was reading in his office after the routine morning assembly meeting with the officials. Whack! Appearing suddenly, one of his subordinates slapped his face hard without a single word. “Heaven forbid! What in the world are you……you rude……!” The magistrate became enraged by this unprecedented rude behavior and summoned all the officials. “Put this barbarous offender into the dungeon for slapping the magistrate!”

  But nobody was responding. “What are you waiting for? Why are you hesitating? Carry out my order at once!” Then, an official broke silence and with an air of innocence said, as had been planned, to the magistrate: “Your Honor, how could a minor official dare to have slapped the magistrate? Please, restore your composure and try to recall carefully what had really happened so that no serious mistake may be made by an honorable magistrate,” This made the magistrate even more infuriated. Seeing this, one of the officials rushed to the magistrate's son.

  “Master, we have a matter of grave concern. His Magistrate seems to be suffering suddenly from a strange illness. He is delirious right now. Please, come with me.” When the son followed the official to his father's office, he found his father, with his eyes bloodshot, talking incoherently about a subordinate slapping his face. “Father, Father, please, calm down. Why are you accusing the innocent subordinate? What good would your temper tantrum do?” The magistrate's son then sent for a doctor without even listening to his father to the end. “What are you saying, Son? Are you also saying I am ill? What an outrageous thing to say!” Unable to control his rage, the magistrate kicked his son on his seat, which was an extraordinary behavior for any high officer to display in public. That same day the provincial magistrate happened to pass through the town. Hearing that the local magistrate was seriously ill and out of mind, he ordered the dismissal of the insane local magistrate.

  The local magistrate, whose career came to an abrupt end and who was by then regarded by all as mentally ill, headed for his private residence in Seoul. On his way, he had a chance to meet the provincial magistrate in person who was staying overnight in the same small town. “How is your health? Have you been taking good care of yourself?” asked the provincial magistrate who had dismissed him earlier. The ex-magistrate seized upon the opportunity to talk about what had really happened to him and said, “The truth, Your Honor, is that the incident was…… I was not insane at all.

  That day, that wretched subordinates……“ ”Are you still blaming that official? For Heaven's sake, don't go into that fit again.“ The provincial magistrate dismissed outright whatever the poor ex-magistrate was trying to say. The ex-magistrate lost the one last chance to clear himself of insanity. Since then, he had never talked about the incident any longer to anybody.

  Many years had passed and the ex-magistrate was near death of old age. At his last moment, he gathered all the family members around his bed and told them what had really happened on the day he was dismissed. His son, calmly looking down at his father, said in a sad voice, “Father, you are getting into a fit again, even at your death bed.”

  Korean

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