[VIEWPOINT]Laws, not politics, make a nation

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[VIEWPOINT]Laws, not politics, make a nation

In the 1960s, the situation in the United States was similar to that of Korea today. African-Americans, women and the elderly faced public discrimination. Despite abundant wealth, the United States frequently cried in pain for the suffering of these minorities.

In such dark times a leader named John F. Kennedy surfaced and preached unity. Mr. Kennedy asked the nation to eliminate discrimination. The unity process took almost 40 years, and since then the United States is now free from segregation and discrimination. The change in the United States was a large yet silent revolution. The United States declared that a man shall not be judged by race, gender or age, but by the personal qualities he or she holds.

A lot of people believe that the silent revolution was achieved via the political process. In other words, the revolution was instructed under the political leadership of Mr. Kennedy. That is not entirely true, however. Although Mr. Kennedy had sparked a movement to improve the discrimination situation, the decisive factor came not in politics but in the law. Hence, the movement can be defined as a judicial revolution. The American Constitution had already stated that all men were created equal, but the law had not been followed before the changes that were made during the '60s. When the equality movement escalated, the Supreme Court valiantly stepped forward and started to bar every legislation and custom that discriminated against African-Americans, women and elderly people. The man who led the movement was the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.

For example, there was a system called "busing," a movement to integrate white students and African-American students. Before busing came along, the two races were segregated. African-Americans living in slums went to public schools meant only for blacks, while whites attended other public schools that generally provided better educational qualities.

The Supreme Court ruled that such separation of race in schools and of students was itself discrimination. The court then ordered African-American students to get on a school bus that was directed to the school that was occupied by whites-only.

The African-American and the white students were forced to take classes together, which clearly integrated both races.

Many parents, infuriated that their children suddenly had to mingle with another race, filed a lawsuit against the Supreme Court. But the court steadfastly pushed on with its initiative to integrate the two races. The results have been successful, and schools around the United States now are a mixture of various races.

There are similar campaigns that also made the equality movement in the '60s that took almost 40 years to complete to be successful.

The Supreme Court also barred any law or custom that infringed upon such basic human rights as freedom of speech and freedom of privacy.

Through the movement, the United States has slowly changed into what it is today, and the Supreme Court embedded the spirit of the American Consti-tution in the lives of every citizen. Needless to say, the American people, more than anywhere else in the world, have a much greater faith in the judicial system than they have in politicians.

People who have a strong faith in the court system have a better understanding of how the world revolves.

Therefore, it is much easier for society to reform when the judicial system steps in and, on the frontlines, makes changes rather than lets politicians struggle to make a difference.

Let's look at the situation in Korea. For years discrimination of women, senior citizens and even people from different regions has been practiced publicly. How-ever, the Korean Constitution has been reluctant to bar such discriminatory acts that infringe on fundamental human rights.

Although numerous existing laws continue to gag freedom of speech and of the press, and other legal provisions are promulgated and misused to restrain press freedom, protecting the vested interests of a privileged few in a manner unimaginable in the United States, nobody invokes the constitution to uphold those laws.

The Korean Constitution already has arranged the law to make our society free and equal, which is thought of as an ideal society. If laws are properly followed, our society will become an ideal society. A society that is ruled by the law can be achieved only when the judiciary is functioning in a proper manner.

I ask, "Do we have the constitution?" whenever I look at a society that is trying to achieve social reform not through the judicial system but through politics.


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The writer is the vice president of Sejong University.

by Junn Sung-chull

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