[Viewpoint] Recalling the Constitution’s ideals

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[Viewpoint] Recalling the Constitution’s ideals

Today is the 61st anniversary of Constitution Day.

Six decades ago, elected legislators finalized the Constitution after having worked on it day in and day out.

The legislators at the time were overjoyed to take our country back from Japanese occupation and establish a new Constitution, one that incorporated their enduring love for the country.

The basic spirit of the Constitution was to end confrontation between leftist and rightist ideals and build a liberal democratic country.

Some of the legislators said they could not possibly take money for working for their country, and they remarkably returned the payments they were given.

It’s a huge departure from today, of course, when lawmakers receive solid salaries for supposedly representing the people.

Nowadays, though, they pursue their parties’ interests and waste enormous amounts of time.

Though legislators have the weighty responsibilities of protecting the Constitution, establishing law and keeping the ruling administration in check, they instead boycott the National Assembly or engage in politics in pursuit of their own interests. This is certainly a violation of the Constitution, not to mention the law.

Our Constitution calls for a representative, democratic political regime, and it looks to guarantee that the people as a whole have sovereignty. The supreme power is placed in the hands of the president, legislators and civil servants ?? representatives of the people.

Legislators are supposed to be servants of the people, and thus they must work for the people as a whole. Lawmakers belong to certain political parties, but their duty is not to pursue the interests of their parties. Rather, they must judge what is good for the people and work in that direction.

After our country democratized, some citizens staged frequent protests, illegal rallies and even strikes in the name of political causes. These acts destroy the liberal democracy that the Constitution pursues.

The Constitution sees to it that government bodies are organized in a way that guarantees the dignity, freedom and equality of the people. Additionally, it set up a structure where each government body is supposed to keep the others in check.

Protestors act as if they speak for the public as a whole by participating in rallies. But the ordinary citizens faithfully conduct their daily lives at work and at home. The Constitution gives us the freedom of speech and the press and the freedom to assemble. But the freedom is limited by the law in order to guarantee the security of the country and to maintain order.

The main goals our Constitution pursues are those revolving around life, dignity, freedom and equality. Damaging those in the name of liberal democracy cannot be sanctioned under any circumstances.

One is never allowed to infringe on another’s freedoms or assets in pursuit of his or her own freedom. If one infringes on someone else’s freedom or damages another’s assets, one must be punished in accordance with the law.

Therefore, even if the cause or goal behind a rally is good or benevolent, if participants use violence to get their points across then the rally is illegal. Illegal rallies must be dispersed, and participants must be punished.

However, even some former presidents and incumbent legislators say they don’t need to abide by the law if they do not agree with it. As leaders increasingly ignore the law ?? even though they are the ones who establish it ?? their actions ripple across the country, and crime and violence become more commonplace.

Even though illegal rallies or strikes for political reasons are strictly prohibited, many people attempt to organize them nonetheless. It is truly regretful that some legislators leave the National Assembly and stage protests on the street.

A representative body must be governed by a majority rule. It is contradictory that National Assembly members won their posts in an election ?? the foundation of democracy ?? yet they engage in fights outside the National Assembly.

Those who abandon the principles of democracy, discussion and compromise certainly cannot be called representatives of the people.

Those legislators who deny the majority rule and ask for the impossible must resign.

When a political party destroys the basic order for liberal democracy and works for the interest of North Korea, the party must be disbanded.

In the 21st century, our country stands at a crossroads between making a leap into the future or collapsing in on itself. We all need to abide by the Constitution to prevent division among the people and to realize democracy in the truest sense.

Restoring the authority of the Constitution is the shortest and indeed the only way to prevent our country from being split down the middle. And it’s the only way to make people feel secure. The government must do its best to establish and uphold the Constitutional order.


*The writer is a professor emeritus of constitutional studies at Seoul National University.


by Kim Tschol-su
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