[OUTLOOK]Be careful of wielding powerWww.peoplepower21.org is the address of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy’s Web site. Nowadays, the “people power” is exercising mighty influence in the controversy over the so-called X-file case. As the group raises its voice to fight social injustice from the government, politicians, conglomerates and media, I feel pride as one of the citizens.
Established in 1994, the organization could become the most influential one in the civil movement because it has displayed an unprecedented expertise and promptness in the politics of “issues and alternatives.” More than 100 activists, including some 50 experts and another 50 full-time employees, with their shared awareness of issues and drive to put the theories into action, have often brought enormous storms to Korean society.
Thanks to the group’s activities, the citizens gladly confirmed that the people are not spiritless, and Korea could go a step further in its democratic march toward a transparent and fair society.
Because of their achievements and prestige, the relatively small civic group with 12,000 members has emerged as a new power entity. The Solidarity has proclaimed that it does not pursue power, and ironically, its freedom from avarice has given the civic organization a refreshing and unchallenged power of criticism.
However, any group has to be prudent when it reaches the height of power. The very cause of success could easily turn into a trigger for its collapse. I am concerned that the rather rash attitude of the solidarity on the eavesdropping case reflects a certain strategic intention. Let’s point out two things.
First, we need to talk about the frame of the case. The “frame” is the civil rights group’s manner of defining the essence of an incident in order to mobilize the public. The initial frame of the case is the “systematic eavesdropping by the state agency,” and the secondary frame is the president-making operations led by Samsung.
The former is a definite fact, and the latter is suspicion. Legally speaking, the suspicion is based on unlawfully collected evidence. In this case, the proper response on the side of the “people power” is to file a complaint against the National Intelligence Service. If watching the systematic violence of a state organization is the most important duty of a civic organization, the organization has to wage a war with the head of the National Intelligence Service and the politicians that ordered the eavesdropping and used the results.
However, the group has shuffled the priority of the frames. The civic group focused on the ugly collusion among the politicians, prosecutors, media and businesses, and named Samsung Group as the lead player.
The rash attacks of the organization, which is convicted based on “unlawfully collected evidences,” seem to have deviated from the right path of the “people power.”
In its news conference immediately following the eavesdropping case, the civic group focused on the illegal lobbying fund of Samsung Group. The “Samsung Report,” published on Aug. 3, was also an expression of its righteous indignation against the omnipotence of the business giant.
It is a shame that the leading figures of Korean society were involved in such an illegal affair. But how should the state agency that committed the crime of controlling society with the law of shadows and driving people into a fearful psychological state be punished?
Here, the frame is changed. Why did the Solidarity change the priority of frames?
Second, the conspiracy of collusion, which has already been made public through network television, is highly likely to be true, so before the group openly denounced the collusion, it should have more carefully considered the legal boundaries of the eavesdropped contents.
The group skipped two sensitive issues: One is the matter of acknowledging the secret conversations, which are not supposed to be obtained in the first place, as official facts, and the other is to treat countless corruptions and illegal activities contained in the 261 tapes fairly.
Professor Kim Ki-won, a member of the Economic Reform Center, one of the active branches of the group, recently contributed an article on the group’s home page. In the article, titled “Will Korea tremble if Samsung is shaken?” Professor Kim wrote, “What would happen if Samsung intentionally hurt itself as a threat? Even if it doesn’t collapse, it could lead to shrinking investment. ... The autocracy of Samsung is less violent than the military dictatorship. But they are the same in terms of destroying the market and democracy.”
The writing contained enough fury aggregated against the company, and the article was more provocative than calmly explaining the “personal right to choose information” and the relationship between public interests. Not many legal experts would agree that the “Samsung Gate” can be logically deduced from the “right to control personal information.”
Even if Mr. Lee had been writing about a different subject, it is not certain whether the group’s 12,000 members would have been satisfied with his chilling expressions.
At the peak of its influence, the “people power” of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democra-cy demonstrates its affinity to the ideological trend of the young generation, which is reflected in the demographics of the leaders and the full-time employees.
Having advocated the abolition of the National Security Law and opposed the troop dispatch to Iraq, the civic group reflects the tendency of the generation.
The goal of social justice proclaimed by the group does not necessarily reverberate for everyone. To make the tape recordings public, the group has to go through the multiple obstacles of the Constitution.
It should contemplate whether setting off the “suicide bomb” without knowing who would get hurt is the only way to achieve justice.
* The writer is a professor of sociology at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Song Ho-keun