[Viewpoint]Accepting the rule of lawWhen the National Assembly session came to an end, one party was left crying as the other party laughed. The opposition party applauded and celebrated their victory, leaving the ruling party to lament their failure. This is all quite strange. To me, the ruling Grand National Party was victorious and the Democratic Party defeated, but their reactions are just the opposite. Why would you cry over a victory and celebrate a defeat? It all depends on how you look at the situation.
What would have happened if the GNP had not made a concession? Many of the ruling party members would have been hurt, and the National Assembly would have been paralyzed for an even longer time. The opposition party would have continued their protests into fall. Korea wouldn’t have been able to avoid international disgrace. The Grand National Party saved us all from further damage. How can the Democratic Party think it has won? Are they celebrating the victory of violence? Maybe, they successfully accomplished the short-term goal of stopping controversial bills. Since the ruling party failed to introduce the bills, they have lost to the opposition, who effectively prevented the bills, so they have won.
However, if we look ahead, the ruling party prevented a greater catastrophe by making a concession. Parliamentarism barely escaped fatal injury from the violence. The GNP should have emphasized this point to the citizens. It should be their sales pitch. It is pathetic that the ruling party is absorbed in factional struggle and thinks it has lost.
Victory and defeat depend on purpose and perspective, even at the personal level. Some might be living the life of a loser but are content in their lives. In contrast, those who always win may feel like a failure in life. Religious people say we should lose every day in this life because higher goals await in the eternal world. Whether the objective is to simply pass a certain bill or to defend the democratic process, the result is quite different.
Korea’s goal is to become a developed country. We should become advanced not only in our economy but in politics, culture and customs. A glass can be filled to the brim when the rim is level. But if one side of the opening is higher than the other side, the glass will always be half empty. The same applies to developed countries. When the economy, politics, culture and customs are equally advanced, we can fully reach our capacity as a nation. Thriving economic development does not make a country advanced. When our intellectual climate is so low that a few words from Minerva shake the country and the National Assembly is tainted with violence, Korea cannot become a member of the developed world no matter how strong the economy becomes. The country will be weighed down by its lowest elements and will remain at that level.
Therefore, we need to have a higher purpose and a broader perspective. At the core of a developed nation is the rule of law. When our National Assembly that makes the law is ruled by violence, we cannot expect the rule of law to be respected. Without an Assembly that abides by the laws, we cannot become a country of laws.
Due to history’s darker moments, Koreans are generous to the cause of the minority. In order to stand against the bigger violence, we have tolerated certain acts of violence in the National Assembly. However, things are different now.
No cause justifies violence because it hurts the fundamental principles of democracy. The National Assembly should be the first to establish the clear definition of decision-by-majority. Democracy follows the majority yet respects the rights of the minority.
The U.S. Congress has the filibuster for the minority to obstruct legislation. However, the right of the few is not tolerated indefinitely. When 60 of 100 agree, the filibuster needs to be stopped. We need to use the recent National Assembly occupation as a chance to make a rule that can never be violated. This is a prerequisite to becoming a developed country.
Democracy based on majority decision is powerful because it respects the minority. Such respect comes from communication and understanding the other side through dialogue. There is no such thing as an eternal ruling party and a permanent opposition.
The biggest problem of this country is that people have closed their minds. Factional and ideological differences amplify and magnify hostility and hatred. Both sides encourage antipathy, and the country is falling into a deeper quagmire.
The crisis of the Assembly represents the crisis of society. We need to rethink the meaning of reconciliation. We should never forget that other people are also members of the community. Unless we open our hearts, the disease of violence can never be cured. Therefore, it is a problem of the National Assembly, and at the same time, our community as a whole.
Imagine the National Assembly transforming into an assembly of the rule of law. It doesn’t cost anything. We just need to change our hearts.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Moon Chang-keuk