[INSIGHT]What do we get for our pain?

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[INSIGHT]What do we get for our pain?

From what we have seen so far, it seems unlikely that the Constitutional Court will accept the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun.
It also seems likely that Our Open Party will win a big victory in the legislative elections. Support for President Roh, which had dwindled to near 30 percent, has shot up to 50 percent already. On the other hand, the opposition parties that impeached him are all but crushed. About 20 days into the impeachment brouhaha, President Roh is emerging stronger than before while the opposition parties have shrunken miserably in power.
But is this the result that was sought by the thousands who marched in the streets expressing righteous indignation, and the numerous civic groups who weighed in about the impeachment?
It is quite understandable that the opposition parties, which pressed on with the impeachment motion against the people’s will, are now being punished by the people. From the looks of it, the opposition parties are going to get crushed in the general election. Many a year it will be before any foolhardy politicians decide to go against the people’s will again.
But what good deeds has President Roh done to deserve such good marks from the public? What service has Our Open Party done to society to receive such nationwide support? Will such a result aid our national interests or political progress? Albeit washed away by the wild waves of anti-impeachment sentiment, there had indeed been a public demand that President Roh apologize for breaching the election laws and failing to keep his neutrality. Even if the president’s mistake of not apologizing is lesser than the opposition parties’ mistake of impeaching him, the fact remains that the president was the one who provided the reason for the impeachment.
The fact also remains that what the president did at the news conference shortly before his impeachment, defending his aides indicted for corruption and linking his call for a referendum on his rule and the legislative elections, deserves censure and not praise. If so, is the public not being fair in doling out its punishments and prizes in this impeachment fiasco?
It is only natural that the people would reward Our Open Party, which tried hard to block the impeachment, in the National Assembly elections to punish the opposition parties. But whether a candidate opposed or supported the president’s impeachment is not the only criterion for choosing a National Assembly member who has to lead the affairs of the country for the next four years. The impeachment is not the only thing that will happen in our country over the next four years. We have yet to evaluate some of the most essential matters in the election, such as which parties proposed what policies and nominated what capable candidates. It’s election season, and yet the many national issues at hand are being ignored in the shadow of the impeachment.
Now the official election period has begun, and people are asked to stop holding candlelight vigils. It is time for us to calmly assess what we have gained and lost in this impeachment business. If the impeachment were to do only with President Roh returned to power by a Constitutional Court decision in a month or two, the people will have had suffered too much for too little. If the recompense for all that shock and national turmoil is a return to the status quo ante, it wouldn’t be fair. The people deserve something more.
What could the people gain from this? The biggest gain the people could get would be a changed man in President Roh. If it is the same President Roh with the same state management as before the impeachment, it would be hard to find a reason for our having paid the heavy toll of this affair. If the president continues with his rash words, taking sides, his tendency to insult his opponents, defending his aides and destabilizing the country, even those who opposed his impeachment will regret his return in the end. Moreover, once the president is armed with a high support rate and a majority government party, who is to guarantee that these problems will not be amplified? Wouldn’t there be a possibility of him pursuing a “civil revolution?” This writer is concerned that the president might see the news about the impeachment on television and reaffirm his belief that he can only trust “his people” such as Nosamo members and Justice Minister Kang Gum-sil, who are avidly advocating his cause during the impeachment process. The people who have defended the president against his impeachment have the right to demand the president’s answers to these concerns, and President Roh has the duty to reply to the people.
Another gain to be sought from this impeachment affair is to see the legislative elections conducted on the real issues. The election is not a referendum on the impeachment nor is it a vote of confidence on President Roh. It is an election to pick diligent workers who will wrestle with the many issues facing our country during the next four years.
If people vote emotionally because they were disgusted with the current National Assembly, then the next Assembly will turn out to be bad as well. Again, the people would be the victims. We must pick our 17th National Assembly wisely, if only to be compensated for having put up with the 16th.
We will only be mature citizens if we gain from this big affair, the first impeachment of the president since the founding of the country.

* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Song Chin-hyok
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