[EDITORIALS]The end of a capital moveThe nine-judge Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that a special law to relocate the capital is unconstitutional, ending the long debate that has surrounded the issue.
The decision effectively puts an end to the matter for good since in a situation where the opposition party is actively against a relocation of the capital it would be hard to get two thirds of the lawmakers’ votes in the National Assembly and win in a national referendum as well.
First, the fact that the two-year-long debate surrounding the issue has finally come to an end is very positive news. The fact that the entire country was drawn into turmoil as the relocation of the capital was driven by a political agenda, while the opposition party tried to capitalize on the issue, is enough to show the low quality of our politics.
Nevertheless, one consolation is that the Constitutional Court’s decision has halted a project that was born out of political motives. Including the president, the current government needs to humbly accept the Constitutional Court’s decision. People should not try to put a bad light on the court’s decision or to reverse that decision by resorting to expedient methods, citing legal theory.
The decision by the Constitutional Court is a final decision that cannot be reversed. In addition, no one should try to push through with the relocation of the capital just because keen political interest is attached to it.
The governing Uri Party barely holds the majority in the National Assembly but the Grand National Party, the main opposition party, is strongly against a capital relocation. Even if a revision of the constitution is approved in the National Assembly, a national referendum must still be held in order to go ahead with the plan. This process alone would take about four months. In that period, our society would only end up in deeper turmoil due to the ensuing political bickering surrounding this issue. This will deal another blow to an already struggling economy.
But if the relocation of the capital is still pushed forward despite such danger then that would really leave a dark mark in history. If one follows the Constitutional Court’s decision, the scrapping of the relocation plan is only natural.
The ruling by the court has clearly demonstrated that a decision on a matter that is closely linked to the identity of a country cannot be decided without the people’s consent. The Constitutional Court said the fact that Seoul is the capital of the country is part of customary law, and although it is not written out in the constitution, it is by custom part of the constitution and also an unwritten law. The court said that changing such a law without the proper revision of the constitution is an act that neglects the right of the people to vote in a national referendum.
In various public polls there has been much opposition. Nevertheless, the government and the governing party did not listen to opposing views and tried to push forward with the project, justifying their action by the passage of the special law in the National Assembly.
In light of the decision by the Constitutional Court we have to take a closer look at other laws that the government and the governing party are trying to change, such as the National Security Law, media reform and the reform of private schools. They have to understand that any law that has been pushed forward without the consent of public opinion and constitutional law will end up the same way as the special law that has just been scrapped.
The Constitutional Court’s decision has clearly shown that the rule of law prevails, while by providing a clear legal theory it also had a positive effect on the education of the people. Regarding the relocation, political parties have been bickering while civic organizations and scholars engaged in a hot debate in accordance with their interest. The Constitutional Court put an end to all this chaos by providing a clear verdict.
We should be cautious of people who are attaching more meaning to the court’s decision than there really is or who are trying to use it politically. The decision does not deny the legitimacy of the government but it merely points out that the process of relocating the capital was unconstitutional. There should be absolutely no attempts to use the decision for political purposes.
President Rho Moo-hyun vowed to link the government’s fate with the relocation of the capital, but we should not pay too much attention to these words. The relocation of the capital is just that. A simple relocation. The opposition party, conservatives or any political force that is against the president should not try to link the decision to the legitimacy of the government. It will only create chaos. Now is the time for the people to come together to figure out how to tackle the problem of developing the nation in a balanced way.