[Outlook]In this case, the system workedIs Kim Seung-youn’s revenge attack just a simple case of assault or does it point to other social problems?
The Hanwha Group’s excuse is that Kim’s fatherly love was expressed in the wrong way. The chairman’s own public apology points to a similar explanation. They say it is a simple assault case brought on by a father who was angry that his son had been beaten, so the father sought revenge. Other fathers would do the same thing, they argue.
However, I do not think this is simply a case of assault by an individual because this case includes every social factor, including a conglomerate, violence, power, the media and the law.
A chairman of one of the country’s top 10 conglomerates mobilized a gang and took part in violence himself. The police knew about the case but hid it under a blanket. Then the case was reported by the media and, after twists and turns, the chairman was arrested. Many powerful organizations are involved in one way or another.
This case cannot be seen just as a funny story in which a chairman wielded a lead pipe while wearing leather gloves.
This case shows that money can be translated into power, or even worse, buy conglomerates authoritative power. Kim used his own company for the revenge attacks. He employed the chief bodyguard and let his company call in the gangsters. Staff members at his company became involved in the attacks, although indirectly. Even after the case became public, Hanwha was busy covering up or trying to sort out the details.
If this was just the case of an individual, Kim would have had to employ a lawyer to handle the case. But Hanwha, his company, serves as a powerful means for Kim.
A liberal democracy is an institution designed to protect individuals’ life, rights and assets. An individual is guaranteed the right to pass down his assets. But if a chairman of a company, like Hanwha, hands down his company to his son, the entire organization ― on top of the assets ― is inherited.
In short, power is inherited from the father to the son. A liberal democracy is meant to protect private property, not guarantee the inheritance of privilege through an institution. Feudal systems and dynasties allow power to be inherited.
Kim’s case reveals a constitutional crisis.
Both the assaulters and the victims distrusted the law and the agencies that enforce it. Democracy is based on constitutionalism. Everyone is equal before the laws. We all abide by the law that we have established, and in that way we all become liberated. This means not accepting anyone’s privilege. In not doing so, everyone is eager to abide by the law.
Kim wanted to enjoy his privileges. With the power of his money and company, he planned to stay above the law when handling his affairs.
In the meantime, the owner of the bar was attacked, but he did not dare to file a lawsuit. He feared the power of a conglomerate. He thought protections under the law were far away.
When we don’t trust in the law to protect us, who protects our freedom and human rights?
This case also showed that the powerful people in our society can get organized and work together. People in power and powerful organizations cooperate in secret to enhance their common interests.
The police knew about the case but did not make it an issue for one-and-a-half months. Why? The police might have been bribed or it might have networks with the company. If the police covered up the case, it could just disappear. Perhaps countless similar cases might have also disappeared this way.
Kim’s revenge attacks were reported through the media one-and- a-half months after they took place.
The media hesitated in the beginning, as well. Is it because it was hard to cover the story and interview the people? Or, is it because the media outlets were afraid of losing commercials from the company? The ability to make a case not a social issue is power. If the media had continued to hesitate, this case might have disappeared for good.
Even after the case surfaced, it wasn’t easy. Hanwha employed the country’s largest law firm. Top lawyers must have figured out a variety of methods to avoid arrest. That is, of course, the power of money. Nonetheless, Kim was arrested. That was in accordance with the judgment of the court.
Ironically, I see hope for this country in this case. As I pointed out earlier, this case could have been covered up forever, very easily, considering the circumstances. But our country is not that rotten yet. Things that needed to surface did surface. Things that needed to be turned into social issues did so. The media and the law worked, although they may not be perfect. The case proved our society is still healthy.
Kim should not be discriminated against during the trials just because he is a conglomerate chairman.
All men are equal before the law. That is how it works in a sane and decent country.
*The writer is the vice publisher and chief editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk