[OUTLOOK]Impeachment: Lessons learned

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[OUTLOOK]Impeachment: Lessons learned

The Constitutional Court overturned the National Assembly’s impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun Friday, finally putting an end to a political confrontation that paralyzed the president for two months.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling was made with due process, and it was a decision reached under the most careful examination of the issue in consideration of our country’s future. We respect the court’s ruling as having been made in the name of our national progress. In its ruling, the court neither snubbed nor criticized the National Assembly’s impeachment decision.
For a person who has served in the National Assembly half his life trying to uphold the principles of representative democracy, my biggest fear in this affair was not being criticized as the speaker who pressed on with the impeachment decision but being remembered as a speaker who had ignored due legal procedures laid by the National Assembly Act.
The underlying principle of representative democracy is to base all decisions made in the National Assembly on dialogue and compromises among all parties, and should such a coordination of opinions prove to be difficult to follow the rule of decision by a majority that is set down in the National Assembly regulations.
Democracy is in truth a mechanism of values that emphasizes the simple legitimacy of process rather than the achievement of a purpose. If we let ourselves be ruled by the subjective righteousness of our purposes and ideologies, ignoring legitimate procedures, we would be taking a dangerous shortcut to everything that democracy stands against.
The reason that I insisted on the completion of a process that is written in the Constitution, despite doubts expressed about the process of the National Assembly’s impeachment decision and efforts to avoid a final decision by the Constitutional Court ― that was because I couldn’t give up my long-held belief that democracy is pursuing the beauty of the process.
In any case, we now have recorded in our history the first case of a democratic procedure called a presidential impeachment. What are some of the lessons we can learn from this process? Just because the final verdict on the impeachment is out does not mean that everything that happened is erased.
In order for our country to pro-gress further, we hope earnestly that President Roh learns a lesson from this affair and leads a more stable government with a more mature attitude. Also, all politicians, from both government and opposition parties, should reflect on just how much confusion and strife they caused in the country with their arrogance and self-righteousness.
The media should also reflect on just how hard it had tried to maintain calm and fairness, while the people should consider whether their participation in the process was not excessive and spurred by emotion rather than reason.
We can no longer afford any confusion and strife. We must take the impeachment affair that left our country in chaos for the last two months as a lesson for everyone and accept the Constitutional Court’s ruling for the benefit of our future generations.
We should not commit the narrow-minded error of judging who did what wrong and exacting revenge. Both the forces that supported and opposed the impeachment should share a common sense of destiny in forging our history together. Only then will this impeachment incident serve as a precious lesson to our people and become a valuable step toward a better future for our country.
Now that the Constitutional Court’s final verdict is out, we must accept it with humbleness and show the united force of our people. It is meaningless to distinguish between winners and losers in this affair. Whether winners or losers, we are all in the same boat and we are share a common destiny.
The 16th National Assembly now only has less than 12 days left to run. It is a good thing that the president’s impeachment process started in the term of the 16th National Assembly and ended before that Assembly ended.
The new 17th National Assembly should take the hard-earned lesson of the decision-making process on the impeachment and practice a politics of co-existence and efficiency based on dialogue and compromise.

* The writer is the speaker of the National Assembly. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Park Kwan-yong
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