[OUTLOOK]A drama that shows our flaws

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[OUTLOOK]A drama that shows our flaws

There is no doubt that democracy in Korea is at a crossroads. The fact that a president who has only been in office for a year and two weeks has been impeached by the National Assembly reflects the inherent and persistent weaknesses of Korean politics.
Nevertheless, it is not a crisis that shakes the foundation of a country.
We have to use today’s situation as a stepping stone for a better future, while viewing the situation itself as an essential part of the process of Korean democracy taking root.
In the past half-century, through the ups and downs of Korean politics, we have had the experience of finding a solution to such problems. After the democratization of the country, and the development and maturity of Korean politics, we have watched some other true political dramas play out here.
Two former presidents have been sent to jail in the last two decades, and two other former presidents’ sons who were entangled in crimes received their punishment while their fathers were still in office.
Despite the political drama surrounding these events, the will of the people to develop a democratic country has never wavered. It is this ability of our people that will guide our country through this difficult situation.
The people will never allow a coup d’etat. The country will be managed according to law and due process.
As a situation gets more complicated, there are individuals and interest groups that feel the urge to use unlawful means to achieve their objectives. Such rash acts are the biggest threats to democracy.
As we wait for the decision by the Constitutional Court on the impeachment, the upcoming legislative elections in April should be used as an opportunity to reflect voter opinion. If we do that, the situation will be resolved in a lawful and politically acceptable manner and will further boost our efforts to create a mature democracy.
Fortunately, we have very capable bureaucrats. There should be no problems for our prime minister, who has plenty of administrative experience to manage our country while the court makes a decision. If there are any significant problems we should be worried about, they are the uncertainty about whether there is a will to find a common vision and objective for our country to pursue after the decision on the impeachment and elections have been made.
The current political crisis also reflects the absence of such a vision or a political consensus.
The lack of a concrete vision that can guide our country in a global age ― so that it does not fall behind in international competition and keeps moving forward to becoming an advanced nation ― is very unsettling.
If there is no clear grasp of understanding about what kind of sacrifices people have to endure in order to focus national efforts toward such goals, this country will just drift.
It also should be a matter of great concern to the Korean people that there is no strategic planning in place that would allow us to solve the current North Korean nuclear problem and the underlying South and North Korean relationship issues in harmony with international relations.
Those problems, of course, have to be solved in a peaceful way that would eventually lead to solid national security and prosperity for Korea.
Such a lack of fundamental guidelines has resulted in a mistrust of political parties and administration leadership to a dangerous level.
And we must also keep in mind that Korean politics has failed many times to sift and consolidate in a stable way the opinions of the masses, and this impeachment drama is no different.
There is an old, unfortunate tradition in Korean politics. That tradition created a political illusion that a president backed only by a minority is representing the will of the people; that illusion has contributed much to today’s dangerous situation.
Despite the consensus that has emerged under the current political system that the president bears virtually no responsibility for his actions, there is little chance for the practice of political cooperation to take its place.
Everyone has dragged their feet in efforts to reform the system. That is killing any chance for Korean politics to become more mature.
Because the current turmoil in Korean politics is truly cruel, the foremost task we have ahead of us as a nation is to use the impeachment situation and the legislative elections as a catalyst for political reform.
First, we have to calm ourselves and wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court while running a clean election for the National Assembly next month.
Then we have to work on a constitutional change that would make possible an improvement of the political system with which we manage our country.
With a new political framework in place, we will then have to come up with a consensus on how we are going to remake our country into a first-rate, developed nation ready to take its place in the modern world of the 21st century.
If we follow the above-mentioned steps there will be a bright future for us as a proud nation in the new century.

* The writer, a former prime minister, is an adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Lee Hong-koo
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