“This land belongs to us from the beginning.” It was the dominium of Silesia that triggered Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) in Europe in the 18th century. The conflict between France and Germany over Alsace and the German aspiration to claim back Czech gave birth to the First and Second World Wars. The issue over the ownership of Palestine still remains a bone of contentions in the Middle East. Some wars are waged to restore territories, but spats over the sovereignty of a land that go way back to the past are often used a pretext of war. Such was the case in the talks that Seohee, a diplomat of Goryeo, and Sosonnyeong, a Khitan general, had in 993. Sosonnyeong argued that Goryeo was descendants of Silla and therefore, it should be satisfied with Silla’s old territory. Seohee rebutted the claim, saying that Goryeo was descendants of Goguryeo, and from a technical point of view, Khitan’s capital also belonged to Goryeo. Sosonnyeong backed out and recognized six states in North Pyongan region including Uiju, Cheolsan, and Seoncheon, as territory of Goryeo. Even now, Seohee’s finesse is hailed as a prime example of pragmatic diplomacy.
His descendants are, however, far from pragmatic. The misunderstanding starts in fathoming the true meaning of pragmatic diplomacy. Many erroneously assume that pragmatism refers to an effortless solution to a diplomatic issue where interests outweigh losses. It could not be further from the truth. Diplomacy should not be an obsession to make ends meet; rather it represents a stance to pursue the best possible interests that reality allows for. Pragmatism is not an arithmetic advantage where one concedes 50 in return for 100. Even if it costs 100 to get only 1, pragmatism stands as far as the 1 is necessary and serves him for the longer term.
Misconception continues even in understanding the way of gaining interest. No military in the world would pull themselves out just because the enemy claims their sovereignty and tells them to back out. Seohee saw through what Khitan wanted, which was to occupy Jurchen before Goryeo, so he proposed to help Khitan attack Jurchen. Sosonnyeong and Seohee fought together to drive out Jurchen, and the Goryeo diplomat immediately built fortresses around the six Gangdong states to prepare against Khitan invasion. Pragmatism is even-headed, and it does not let its ego or a political cause get in the way of utilizing any means. But we’ve failed to do so, and we still are failing. Far from practicing the art of persuasion, the government and intellectual are bent on criticizing the past policies and embellishing themselves. If Seohee’s spirit were her, he would ask to leave his story out of school textbooks.