Legitimate powerIn the past, authoritarian regime wielded the power at will. But people protested against oppressive and despotic rule, and the regime gave in and released the June 29 declaration in 1987. Since then, the country has become democratic. However, there have been some serious side effects. The high waves of democratization undermined the degree of governmental authority that we need in our society. Everyone raised their voices, shaking the country’s law and order. Their demands sometimes involved violence, but the government just sat back and watched, allowing its authority to slip away.
In the incumbent administration, this problem has been particularly bad. The government failed to keep balance in accordance with law and order. Instead, it divided lawmakers into friends and enemies and closed its eyes to illegal acts by members of the inner circle. When the other side did something illegal, the government’s punishment was severe, revealing its narrow-mindedness.
Misusing power degrades the government’s authority and causes it to lose its standing with the people. For instance, the number of violent protests has fallen each year, from 105 in 2005 to 62 in 2006. But protests have become more violent. Last year, 817 policemen were wounded during protests, a drastic jump from 582 in 2000. Last year, the number of wounded people per protest doubled from 5.5 in 2000 to 13. The people are the ones who pay the price. The social and financial costs of illegal, violent protests came to 12.319 billion won ($13.6 million) in 2005, taking up 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product.
It is not only in protests that the government’s authority is disrespected. If the government closes its eyes to illegal acts, whether they be trivial or serious, order in the country cannot be upheld.
That is why the next president must prioritize restoring the government’s legitimate power. Government authority is not a relic of the past. Authority is power mandated by law that the people have entrusted to the government so it can uphold order in society and protect people’s lives and properties. Thus, if public authority collapses, so does the foundation of society. This threatens the human rights and democracy that people shed blood to achieve.
The next president must work hard to make the people understand that respect for public authority and establishing law and order are keys to minimizing social conflict and pursuing happiness and a better quality of life. For that, not only the prosecution and the police but also all public organizations, such as the National Tax Service and the Fair Trade Commission, must wield their power in accordance with the law so as to restore their authority. The next president must bear in mind that if government bodies become tools of the powerful or of certain ideologies, the country will have no future.