[EDITORIALS]Attorneys Stand by the Rule of Law

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[EDITORIALS]Attorneys Stand by the Rule of Law

The resolution stating "the present government's reform measures fall remarkably behind practical legalism," which was adopted by the Korean Bar Association at a national rally Monday is shocking. Unprecedentedly strong language bashing the reform policies pursued by the government has ignited a political storm.

Most noteworthy in the resolution is a passage that urges the rule of law instead of the rule of power, expressing concern that "the objective and justification of government reforms are set forth with a tendency to disregard their legality and legitimacy under law." Further, the lawyers resolved to make all efforts to prevent the enactment of unconstitutional legislation. They claim hasty and slipshod legislation that caters to the interests of certain groups and disregards the theory and legal system of the constitution and laws burdens the nation with confusion and expense.

At first glance, the resolution sounds like a claim made based on principles without reference to specific examples. However, measured against the reform policy drive of the government this resolution bears profound meaning. The bar association's membership numbers 5,100 lawyers; the association represents all attorneys outside the government and judiciary. Therefore, it is noteworthy that the nature of the resolution differs inherently from the usual unilateral outcries voiced by independent organizations of lawyers with the same inclinations.

The rule of law is the unshakable foundation of democracy. The comment made by professional legal experts that they yearn for "government reforms to proceed within the confines of law" at this historical juncture is no different from noting that government reforms have, in the end, deviated from legal confines. The legalism that the government has been emphasizing more so now than at any other time has in fact been discredited by legal experts. One cannot possibly dismiss the remark made by the association's president: "The concept that necessary legal proceedings may be circumvented for the sake of reforms is extremely dangerous."

Further, we must heed the congratulatory address made by the Chief Justice Choi Jong-young. He said, "In our society, practices that are distant from legalism and are aimed at obstructing fair legal execution for the interest of certain individuals and groups or at influencing the verdicts by criticizing the people involved in trials in the name of public opinion are prevalent." The statement can be understood as an alarm bell rang by a leading figure in the judiciary in response to the recent social practices of criticizing the contents of verdicts by stirring up public opinion, according to the critics' interests. The judiciary should be independent not only of political power but also of "public opinion."

On the other hand, politicians should refrain from responding too sensitively to presentations made at lawyers' symposiums or the resolution adopted by the bar association. The ruling Millennium Democratic Party's emotional refutation, clinging to such phrases as "impeachment of the president" is a response that deviates from the true nature of the issue. The opposition Grand National Party is equally out of focus, siding with the claims made by the bar association and talking about impeachment of the president.

The declarations made by the association cannot become the object of political wrangling. It is more important for the government and the ruling party to reflect on the reason behind the lawyers making such a harsh criticism of the government's reform policies and to come up with measures for improvement.

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