[OUTLOOK]Deliver message at local elections

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[OUTLOOK]Deliver message at local elections

With only two days left till the local elections, the fact that many voters are not in high spirits heading to the polls reflects the fact that Korea is not exempt from the worldwide trend of countries that are undergoing a fatigue of democracy.
“The Third Wave of Democracy,” which started out in Spain and Portugal in 1975, sent waves of inspiration and excitement throughout the world.
But 30 years later, most areas, with the exception of Europe, are experiencing repeated ups and downs as the quest for democracy has hit an abrupt stop.
Despite standing out as one of the most successful cases in the history of democracy, many of the Korean people are also realizing that the nation’s politics is at a crucial turning point and requires much sincere self-examination.
While the possibility of military intervention is what worries most other democratic governments, Korea is a role model for others as it has already removed itself of that threat during the fight for democracy.
But the lack of trust Koreans show toward their government’s efficiency, democratic procedures and legal order makes it inevitable to diagnose the foundation of Korean democracy as unstable.
Even though the government is one that took office through democratic elections, the disappointment and disillusionment of its people can easily exceed fatal levels if it repeats serious mistakes that put the national security and welfare of the people at risk.
Fair and democratic elections, along with improved basic rights are important in their own respects, even if they do not automatically ensure effective administration of the nation.
If these factors are neglected, it will result in a major crisis for democracy.
Democracy cannot defend failure that results from amateurism in the nation’s political sector.
It is a value system that favors concrete facts to abstract issues and prevents a nation from falling prisoner to vague ideologies while ensuring that the nation is based on realistic measures.
In addition, being a democratic government is not sufficient to exempt an administration from the blame of failing to establish its place on the fiercely competitive global stage.
Looking at tragic cases in Latin America, the former Soviet Union and Central Asia, Korea can no longer rest on its past.
On the other hand, the anti-democracy wave that is spreading among Muslim nations in the Middle East is a result of a clash of civilizations.
Anti-democracy activists there believe that establishing democratic procedures and systems, such as free elections, will result in an acceptance of a U.S.-led Western influence and threaten their country’s autonomy.
It is why religious belief is the decisive factor in deciding whether to obey a law, rather than the democratic method of deciding by majority. This phenomenon can be raised as “What is the position of democracy in a collision of cultures?”
It is wrong for Korea to stand as a spectator while democracy is experiencing a worldwide crisis.
The Republic of Korea is a democratic republic. We have to remember how much sweat and blood went into developing our nation to its current position and how many twists and turns our nation experienced.
We must not be restricted by our history, however. There is no future for those who hesitate in the face of today’s fierce international competition.
We must bear in mind the following two points to ensure Korea’s democracy and its status as a leading nation in the future.
First of all, Korea’s founding ideology of hongik ingan, or the humanitarian ideal, shows that it is not a nation that places efficiency at the highest order.
However, the Korean people must realize that we are living in an era that does not tolerate inefficient administration of a nation.
That is why we must gather our wisdom and discover how we can ensure the principles of democracy and effectiveness in the nation’s operation simultaneously.
Secondly, Korea is lucky enough to be a land free from religious conflict and is perfectly aware of the side effects of regionalism.
The current problem it faces, however, is the spreading of self-righteousness and arrogance, which ignores democratic procedures and legal order.
We must bear in mind that a democratic election is a precious opportunity to deliver the national consensus that the people will not tolerate such anti-democratic forces.

* The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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