[Viewpoint] Keep criminal lawmakers in fictionIsaak Kohler, a state senator in Switzerland, walks into a restaurant and takes out a gun, shooting a man in the chest. The municipal police chief and district attorney are present at the scene. It is murder, with no room for a doubt. There are witnesses aplenty. However, the situation takes a strange turn. The gun, a crucial piece of evidence, disappears, and the senator is found innocent and acquitted. Instead, a friend of Senator Kohler is accused of the crime and kills himself.
Swiss author and playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt depicts the law completely undermined by power and money in “The Execution of Justice.” The law is the pillar that supports the nation and the society. When the pillar is damaged, the house will crumble. At the end of the novel, the writer asks, “Who is the criminal? Is it the one who broke the law or the one who makes the law?”
This writer who sounded the alarm with a fictional story about a lawmaker trampling the law under his feet would be quite surprised to see the reality in Korea. Every year, Korean lawmakers neglect and violate the Constitution, the highest law in the country.
And with the ruling and opposition lawmakers waging a political war over the Sejong City and four rivers development project, this year is turning out to be no exception.
Article 54, clause 2 of the Constitution requires the National Assembly to pass a budget plan by 30 days before the beginning of the following fiscal year, which is Dec. 2. Since 1990, the lawmakers have passed the budget plan before the legal deadline only five times. In the last six years, the law has not been observed even once. They make it a routine to break the law. When passing of the budget is delayed, financial investment in the following year is delayed and will negatively affect the economic recovery. But the lawmakers seem to care little about such things.
This embarrassing chaos is repeated every year, and I bring it up only out of concern for our cavalier attitude about the rule of law. The National Assembly of Korea has a shameful tradition. Both ruling and opposition lawmakers often use “give and take” tactics and make demands on various political and social issues before the budget is passed. It was the same way when the ruling party was the opposition, and the opposition was the ruling party.
The problem is that there are no means to prevent or punish these violations of the law. When the lawmakers break the Constitution, they are not reprimanded in any way. We are ashamed of these brazen-faced politicians who so often shout at each other to strictly follow the law.
But there is a movement among citizens to take action. They are working on a legislative petition to censure lawmakers who break the law or at least cut down their annual allowances as a penalty. While I agree with the petition, the citizens actually have a clearer means to punish the lawmakers. We have the right to vote.
In The Execution of Justice, young lawyer Felix Spat realized that he had helped Senator Kohler get acquitted because of money and struggles in the face of the crooked reality of justice. He makes up his mind to personally punish Senator Kohler in order to reestablish justice.
We cannot take action like Spat. Instead, we are capable of an even more powerful action. We can bring justice to the lawmakers who violate the law with our votes. Wise voters can teach a lesson to lawmakers who undermine the law.
*The writer is a deputy business editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-yun