[FOUNTAIN]The principle of law must be followedRome conquered the world three times: through force, religion and law. While Rome’s military rule ended along with the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, the conquest of the world by Christianity and Roman law continued.
Christianity has become one of the most widely practiced religions in the world, and Roman law, which defined equality between individuals and the principle of responsibility for faults, were embodied in the Napoleonic Code in 1804, German legal philosopher Rudolf von Jhering wrote in his book “The Spirit of Roman Law.”
Influenced by the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Code defined the principle of legality, that there is no crime or penalty without law. The Napoleonic Code ended the era of absolute monarchs, who judged crimes and punishment as they pleased, and was a springboard for France to develop into a civil society.
Recently, an absurd rhetoric, a national sentiment law, has emerged, denying the principle of legality. There is no tangible substance or written document. It is not a common law that has been established over time. However, it has become an unwritten law that enforced laws can be overridden as long as national sentiment allows. The national sentiment reigns even over the constitution. The vague and abstract concept of national sentiment tends to take shape according to the opinions of some civic groups and scholars. They decide the right or wrong of a certain issue, and when their opinion is backed by certain media, it is “legislated” as a national sentiment law.
Once you violate the national sentiment law, you have to pay the price for your crime. A government official was forced to leave office because he violated the national sentiment on charges of a false address change and his father’s pro-Japanese activities more than a half century ago.
Right after the foreign exchange crisis, the government was pressured by the fury of the citizens, and many officials in charge of economic policy were legally punished because policies were also the subjects of judgment of the law. While the Supreme Court acquitted the officials, they had to spend six years being summoned by investigative agencies and the court.
The national sentiment law, which demands disclosure of the tapes of conversations recorded by the National Intelligence Service, formerly the National Security Planning Agency, directly clashes with the constitution, which guarantees the secrecy of communication.
According to “Han Feizi,” a book of legal doctrines from the Warring States period, the reasoning of the law is tough at first but beneficial in the long run. Abiding by the law is hard, but if we honor the principle of the law, the benefit will last.
by Ko Dae-hoon
The writer is a deputy city news editor for the JoongAng Ilbo.