[VIEWPOINT]In Defense of the Korea Bar's Resolution

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[VIEWPOINT]In Defense of the Korea Bar's Resolution

The Korea Bar Association on Monday adopted a resolution urging the government to pursue reform based on the rule of law, not the rule of might.

The association pointed that the current administration's reforms have not been carried out in accord with the real rule of law, which demands correct procedures and public scrutiny.

The resolution said that members of the bar association do their utmost to make sure that reforms take place under the rule of law, in harmony with society as a whole and in keeping with social order.

The resolution is the most severe criticism of the government since the Kim Young-sam administration, and it showed the right path the government should pursue. Indeed, the association is belated in its critical view of government policy - criticism that almost all members of society would agree with.

The advice offered to the government and the examination of our reality contained within the resolution are not just the opinions of a few idle lawyers. The resolution speaks for the sentiments of many people.

But a group of lawyers has protested the resolution, saying it represents the views of only a minority. Predictably enough, members of the government and ruling party have also tried to disparage the meaning and value of the resolution, arguing that it was only the narrow-minded muckraking of some lawyers.

What a lamentable situation this is! Up until now, the lawyers' community has been united when one of its privileges was under threat. Now, when the action taken was on behalf of the public interest, lawyers are divided.

If the bar has just become a defense group for an elite special interest, why not break it up and let each faction of lawyers defend its own turf?

Sarcasm aside, though, the resolution adopted by the association is something that lawyers and legal professionals can and must speak about.

The resolution criticizes the government's tendency to pursue solely the appearance of legal respectability and urged the government instead to promote genuine legality.

The resolution observed that the government's reform drives, and their stated goals and causes, have a tendency to overlook lawful methods and procedures. The bar association's resolution emphasized that all reform measures should take place in unified concert with our society.

All such conditions are necessary prerequisites for the rule of law to prevail.

In circumstances in which power and personalities trump the rule of law, it is difficult to attain social justice. Lawyers, whose goal is the realization of social justice, should stay silent no longer. The Korea Bar Association, in that sense, has fulfilled its duty as the watchdog for social justice.

The government and ruling party should recognize the resolution as the honest opinion of lawyers, even if they disagree with it. They should reflect on their response and try to give earnest consideration to the resolution's message. If they denounce honest advice as hostile criticism and continue to implement policies that ignore the voice of the people, they risk exacerbating the situation.

At this point, our country is in danger. Not only the rule of law, but politics as well, is disintegrating in our society; every new government policy is seen not as an attempt to fulfill the mandate of the people but a means to prolong the life of the regime.

Whatever forceful methods the government might use, it is difficult to maintain political power without gaining the support and confidence of the public, nor will it be possible for the present ruling party to win the next election.

Unlike communist or socialist states, in free democratic states power resides entirely with the people, and the people will fight to protect their rights. The resolution of the bar association is part of this struggle to protect free democracy and the rule of law.


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The writer is a professor of constitutional law at Yonsei University.

by Huh Young

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