[FOUNTAIN]Ignoring the Law and LegalismLaw was defined by George Jellinek, a German philosopher, as "das ethische minimum" or "the ethical minimum." It is often used to explain the origin of the creation of law. As it proved fruitless to expect people to behave well without rules, long ago laws were created, the lowest ethical and moral standards, which people agreed to stick to.
As classes and then conflicts emerged between people after primitive society in which people got along without rules, laws appeared and states were formed.
The oldest law in human history is the Urukagina's code of Mesopotamia in 2350 B.C. The code contained a clause that thieves and adulteresses were subject to death by stoning. The inscription of this code itself has never been discovered, but it is referred to in other records. The code of Ur-Nammu of Sumer in 2050 B.C. is the oldest extant code of law, but the most famous is the code of Hammurabi of Babylonia in 1700 B.C. The inscription of Hammurabi is housed at the Louvre museum in Paris, and the spirit of the law of Talio, represented by "an eye for an eye," is still adhered to in Middle Eastern law today.
In Chinese history, during peaceful times before the violent Spring and Autumn Period began in 770 B.C., law took a supplemental role to courtesy. But through the radical societal upheavals of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period that followed, it was impossible to govern the country on courtesies alone. As a result, the Legalists or Fa-chia emerged. The one who put together the legalist theory was the philosopher Han Fei-tzu, but Guag Zhong was the one who spread the theory of government on legalism and helped the Duke of Huan of Chi dynasty become established as China's ruler.
The modern concept of legalism is based on the term "the rule of law" from Britain and "Rechtsstaat," or a constitutional state, from Germany. Basically, they insist we should reject dictatorship and implement politics according to the law.
The Korea Bar Association has criticized the reforms of the current government as a retreat from legalism. This must be painful to the government, which often espoused democracy and human rights and emphasized legality, but the charge comes from people who are knowledgeable about the law.
What is the law? Like water flowing, following pure reason is law, and governing by following pure reason is legalism. Politics that decides everything according to the hierarchy of power is government by personalities, no matter how much the current government proclaims that it is legalism.
The writer is Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik