Above whose law?Responding yesterday to the National Assembly, Justice Minister Kim Sung-ho said Article 9 of the election law, which stipulates that civil servants must be politically neutral, does not seem unconstitutional.
Minister Kim explained that the article is part of the statute law and the National Election Commission and the Constitutional Court have already made judgments on that issue.
President Roh Moo-hyun said the law covering civil servants states that a president can carry out political activities, but the election law states that the president must remain politically neutral. The president said this was unconstitutional and a hypocritical measure which is not found in any other democratic country.
Kim expressed objections to this as minister of justice.
It is not easy for a Cabinet member to say “it is not unconstitutional” when the president keeps insisting the article is unconstitutional. That takes courage.
Kim’s valor is in clear contrast to the behavior of Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, who has defended the president, saying that the article in the election law and another from the civil service law are at odds. When the president used such vulgar words as “the wretched Constitution” and “the five-year single-term presidency is damn embarrassing,” Han explained that the president only meant to spice things up a little. In practice, it is hard for a prime minister or a minister to oppose a president who determines their continued employment or summary dismissal.
However, when the president takes the wrong path, Cabinet members must tell the truth and they must be prepared to leave their positions when their words are not well-received. This is a duty of a prime minister and a minister.
In 2004, when the Constitutional Court rejected the impeachment of President Roh, the court said that where the president publicly questions constitutionality and legitimacy of the law he violates the president’s duty to abide by the Constitution. Even the justice minister says the article is not unconstitutional, but the Blue House insists it is. The Blue House said yesterday that it respects the judgment of the National Election Commission but the president would keep making remarks on politics and policy. This is sophistry. If he respects the judgment of the election commission, the president must stop making such remarks. The president must immediately stop ignoring constitutional institutions and the law.