Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ep21: "So, is that why you need justification and not me?"

by Hanjae

"So, is that why you need justification and not me?"

This is such a heartbreaking question from Choi Young, and as with so many other issues raised in Faith, there is no right or wrong. Both Young and Gongmin's arguments for the best way of dealing with Deok Heung are legitimate; they each have their own responsibilities to consider, after all. What is certain is that Gongmin's words may have been well-meant and logical from a king's point of view, but he would come to regret them when he eventually realizes the effect it had upon Young.


Gongmin presents a convincing argument for his decision to let Deok Heung go until he has gained the agreement of the council to confront him (and thus Ki Chul as well as Son Yoo) directly. Once and for all, the council needed to decide whether they were going to support the king of Goryeo or cower in the face of the Yuan emperor - they were going to run into this issue again and again in the future if they did not solve it now. As someone who had finally come into his own as a real king, it stands to reason that he stepped up as a leader rather than hiding behind Choi Young's protection. "Until when should I continue hiding behind you?" Perhaps Gongmin even thought this was a way of relieving Young of some of his great burden, recognizing that previously Young had "fought in [his] stead to protect [him]." Rather than throwing Young out there with an order to kill Deok Heung and then forcing him to face the consequences, Gongmin is trying to think differently. Creating a plan to trap Deok Heung to give himself ample justification for attack rather than rushing headlong into battle (as Young suggested) showed maturity - the very opposite of the flustered and mentally fragile Gongmin that Young was greeted with after Noguk's kidnapping. This was, after all, the grown-up Gongmin that Young wanted.

Young's argument is equally understandable; from his viewpoint, the king is making an incredibly foolish decision to allow Deok Heung to go free without any dependable way of reeling him back in. The comparison of the king throwing the bait without a fishing rod is quite apt; the scholars have shown time and time again that they are undependable and are more likely to bow to Yuan than stand against the onslaught. To Young, it must have seemed like the perfect opportunity to avenge the Queen and save Eun Soo was wasted, however logical Gongmin's reasons for needing justification sounded. Gongmin's words at this point must have seemed like adding insult to injury; "Until when should I continue hiding behind you?" No, Gongmin wanted justification and the agreement of the councilors - Young himself must wait on the sidelines, unable to deal directly with Deok Heung or even engage with Ki Chul's forces. In effect, he was forbidden from fulfilling his role of protecting either the king OR Eun Soo. Young is perceptive; perhaps he even foresaw that the council's indecisiveness would leave him as the sole barrier between Ki Chul's army and the unprotected Gongmin.

It is no surprise, then, that Young's weary statement to Gongmin that he accepted his command was followed by the first dropping of his sword. At a point when Young was already conflicted over the clashing interests of Gongmin and Eun Soo, the king himself forbade him from either avenging Eun Soo's poisoning or forcing Deok Heung to provide an antidote. For a man who saw only his worth as a protector, the fact that he was unable to protect his woman and was then ordered to be "patient" and wait on the sidelines was abhorrent to him - as far as he was concerned, the king no longer needed his protection, but official justification. Gongmin only realizes the effect of his decisions on Young later, when he speaks to Noguk of his regret over placing yet another heavy burden on Young. He may have saved the lives of many subjects by holding back his forces this time, but had unwittingly sacrificed Young to do so.

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