[EDITORIALS]Pardon us for asking

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[EDITORIALS]Pardon us for asking

The government has decided to pardon en masse law-breaking drivers. The number of those eligible to be pardoned, as of June 30, was 4.81 million. So drivers with penalty points or who have had their licenses revoked for speeding or drunken-driving may get behind the wheel again. For those who had been paying for the consequences of a mistake, the pardon is a good news. But other things hinging on the amnesty augur ill. For instance, the pardon may be unreasonable, the government is wooing the public with pork-barrel measures and that the pardon may be self-defeating in that it disrupts a sense of civic order. In addition, the government comes across as overissuing pardons, thereby denting the integrity of the law.

The government cited the beautiful sense of civic order demonstrated by the Korean public during the World Cup as the reason for the latest pardon. The idea is to take the unprecedented show of public orderliness and catapult it into an opportunity to solidify national harmony and national fortunes. But the equation that the success of the matches deserves a rewarding pardon which will contribute to national fortunes has a crude sound to it. One reason that the screaming of "Dae Han Min Guk" appealed to the world is that it was a pure pooling of voluntary civic energy. For the government to reward the Korean public is almost denigrating that civic sense. The government has appeared to be much like a dynasty granting merciful grace to its subjects.

The real problem, however, is the sense of deprivation or persecution of those who have abided traffic laws. President Kim Dae-jung's administration has often been attacked for having a law of their own above the constitution. The latest pardon could wrap the administration in a self-defeating cloak: It trumpets a fair and stable implementation of the law, but in effect it may be eroding two valuable principles.

The pardon of law-breaking drivers is the second one given by the Kim Dae-jung administration. The administration has already granted amnesty several times on political issues. The timing of this pardon makes us suspect that it is a use of patronage aimed at the Aug. 8 by-elections. We believe that the pardons were not based on legal stability but on populism.

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