[OUTLOOK]Winners must think of losersBefore long, the tumult of the impeachment crisis will vanish into the sea of history, and people will be so busy living daily life as to forget that they ever had a debate about impeaching the president.
But the future is inevitably affected by political turmoil from the impeachment.
Korean society has already been deeply hurt by the National Assembly’s passing of the impeachment bill. Even before the impeachment of the president, society was hardly solidly unified. The current crisis has disrupted it even further.
Of course, the future course depends on how the impeachment unfolds. The political impact of the Constitutional Court’s decision ― whether it finds the National Assembly’s impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun unconstitutional or not ― will have different consequences.
Moreover, a new balance of power would be created in accordance with the results of the National Assembly election on April 15, and the identity of the Republic of Korea could be shaken by it.
No one knows how the drama that is the impeachment will end. The crisis has one of two endings. The first is that Mr. Roh is actually removed from office. In that case, those who have been opposing impeachment will resist. To what extent and in what manner they will protest, it is not known. But if they went to such extremes as to challenge the fundamental legal system of the country, society would inevitably slip into chaos and disorder for some time.
In case the legal order and legitimacy of the Republic of Korea is threatened, we must clearly understand now that the government has the duty to protect the country’s system of law regardless of the issue of the impeachment of the president.
Once we have solid understanding of the dignity and sanctity of the law and the state, we can prevent the potential threats to the legitimacy of the republic.
If the Constitutional Court decides that the impeachment of Mr. Roh is unconstitutional, on the contrary, we could be left with exactly the opposite problem of defending the legal order of the state.
While defending the legal system of the country, the winning side might try to exploit or distort the fundamental structure of the system in a legally permitted manner. In this case, with the defeat of the established political powers that attempted to impeach President Roh, enormous, unlimited political power is given to Mr. Roh.
Imagine that Our Open Party sweeps the National Assembly elections on top of the Constitutional Court’s decision favoring Mr. Roh. It would not be easy for Mr. Roh and his supporters to resist the temptation of victory and the power that it confers.
In a way, the situation could turn into a favorable one for Mr. Roh, and his current political position could improve to a point where he has more power than he did before he was impeached.
Finally, Mr. Roh has reached a point where he can believe that the moment has arrived to realize the changes and reforms he has dreamed of.
But the making of history is never so simple. When the moment of victory arrives, a wise leader is able to control the urge to completely wipe out his enemies and build a republic based on his virtues.
Compete defeat would only bring uniform resistance and hostility. In order to establish a stable system, the winner must be able to embrace even his enemies and not exclude them.
Mr. Roh might be one of the few lucky leaders in history who is given the chance to be the historical leader of reconciliation, who can open a new era of unity for all Korean people, transcending deeply rooted divisions in our society.
We truly and sincerely wish for Mr. Roh to open a new era. If Mr. Roh is otherwise tempted by the sweetness of the complete victory, and his followers try to use force to re-create society to fit their blueprint, the country could fall into a deep catastrophic tragedy and chaos.
Therefore, the question is not whether the president is impeached or remains in the office. The essence of the impeachment crisis is that, regardless of the reason behind it, the final outcome of the impeachment, either way, will result in giving Mr. Roh the power to decide the future of the country.
At this point, we, as the citizens of the Republic of Korea, have no choice but to wish for the wisest judgment possible.
* The writer, a former ambassador to the United States, is professor emeritus at Korea University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Kyung-won