&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Monarchs and money

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&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Monarchs and money

In history, a leader's ruling prerogatives are in inverse proportion to the citizens' participation in government. In the 1789 French Revolution, the ruling prerogative was dramatically negated. At the climax of the absolute monarchy, Louis XIV proclaimed "I am the state." The House of Bourbon flourished, reigning from the splendid Versailles Palace, using policies of a wealthy country and a powerful army and overseas colonies. Louis XVI was guillotined during the French Revolution. The almighty ruling power assumed by the House of Bourbon had been undermined; "subversive" enlightenment ideology had rapidly penetrated into the citizenry. The enlightenment ideology declared the liberation of human rationality from institutional shackles like the divine right of kinds. "The Spirit of Laws," written by Montesquieu 41 years before the French Revolution, became the textbook of political enlightenment and laid out the separation of governing powers.

In a modern democracy, the president's power is checked by the constitution. But the president still has some leeway in governing in extraordinary situations. In general, such prerogatives as amnesty, legislative vetos and diplomatic relations are not subject to judicial review.

If the president pursues his private interests, yielding to the sweet temptation of power, that's different. Those "power genes" from the days of absolute monarchs still show up occasionally. Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo, the former presidents, raked in 500 billion won ($425 million) from businessmen, as one example. They contended that the money was "funds for administrating the nation." But citizen fury forced justice to prevail. The prosecution absolved former President Chun Doo Hwan, who seized power through a military coup d'etat, saying that a successful coup is a part of administrating state affairs. But the Kim Young-sam administration punished the coup by enacting a retroactive law, however questionable that might have been.

President Kim Dae-jung's spokesman said the money was sent to North Korea for the sake of peace and our national interests. He added that it is improper to make the action a judicial matter. He may emphasize that he didn't work for his own interests, unlike the two former presidents, and that may be right. But his folly was in trying to keep his actions from judicial review without consulting the people.

by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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