[VIewpoint] A lack of political imagination

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[VIewpoint] A lack of political imagination

“Politics is a living organism.” I like this saying. It was often used by President Kim Dae-jung, and points to limitless possibilities and hope. Imagine a political world in which the pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye lawmakers fiercely fight each other only to reach a sudden compromise that everyone, including Chung-cheong residents, will accept.

Politics is the art of finding solutions to social turmoil and conflicts of interest through dialogue and compromise. It is the art of finding ways to bring mutual satisfaction to terribly complex situations. No government organ can do this. It’s a role that only representatives of the people can fill.

While working as a political reporter, I have seen many leaders who find incredible resolutions beyond the wildest dreams of the public. To find such paths, enormous imaginative power is needed. The resolution is often a product of flexible political thinking outside the rigid boundaries of laws and systems. And such an imaginative person can become a respected leader.

The National Assembly, in this sense, has disappointed me greatly. It appears to have reached an era of depleted imagination. I see only shock troops with no brains. The situation is no different among rank-and-file lawmakers and political leaders.

Think about the situation on July 22 inside the main chamber of the legislature. Grand National lawmakers surrounded the speaker’s seat, while opposition lawmakers including the Democrats engaged in violent fistfights. Representatives from both ruling and opposition parties touched each other’s electronic voting systems. It’s savagery that should not be seen in a democratic country. The world media reported the chaos on newspaper front pages, and even the North Korean Workers’ Party leaders ridiculed the situation when they saw video clips.

It’s even more deplorable that lawmakers always pass unresolved situations onto the Constitutional Court. The impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun and the issue of the construction of Sejong City were both handed off to the court. At the end of the Kim Young-sam administration, the disputed labor bill was also passed onto the court.

It is the Constitutional Court’s duty to rule on a law’s constitutionality. The lawmakers, however, are not asking the court to rule on ambiguous legal terminology. They are asking the court to settle basic matters, and too often.

These days, all important matters are ruled on by the Constitutional Court, and the legislature appears to have given up its autonomous power. I wonder why we even need a National Assembly if it is incapable of proceeding with a session.

A court rules based on law. When it makes a political judgement, it is no longer a fair court. When there is not more political imagination and the nation is ruled strictly by laws, hopes and dreams disappear. The nation’s hopes become relics.

The National Assembly is elected by the people as delegates wielding the people’s power. When “appointed power” reigns over “elected power” and intervenes in every decision, we have to worry about the future of representative democracy.

The basics of politics are dialogue and compromise. A warm society engages the voices of minorities. That’s why the National Assembly has built the tradition of reaching an agreement between parties ahead of a vote. And yet, we must not let minority parties abuse this tradition.

Today, unreasonable thought has overrun the political arena. When unreasonable obstinacy wins over rule by majority, democracy loses. Dialogue and compromise are only possible when a final exit is guaranteed by the rule of the majority. When persistent stubbornness wins out, who wants to concede and compromise? When a decision is made by the rule of the majority, the voters will pass judgment upon it.

In order to make complete use of the imaginative power of politics, clear rules for the decision-making process are necessary. Kim Yu-na can perform great feats based on her strong physical abilities. Without this basis, imagination is useless. Unreasonableness and wasteful debate go on a rampage without structure.

The law governing the National Assembly cannot exist only to reflect the views of the majority. The minorities’ voices must be heard. And yet, the law must be respected under all circumstances. After failing to respect the law that they have created to govern themselves, how can the lawmakers possibly tell anyone to respect other laws? When politicians fail to respect each others’ autonomy, they will lose the right to ask people to vote for them to steer the government.

In the MBC TV drama “Queen Seondeok,” Misil, played by actress Ko Hyeon-jeong, faces a solemn death. She says she loves Silla more than power. As she sees troops approaching her to provide support, she chooses to die.

Will we be able to expect such a choice from our political leaders? I feel doubtful, because it will be impossible to expect refreshing political imagination from lawmakers who do nothing but bring chaos to the legislature and prompt social splits for political gain.


*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Jin-kook
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