A resonant reawakeningAn interesting article and photo from the international pages caught our eyes. Vincent Gray, mayor of Washington D.C., was in handcuffs and searched by police. He was among 41 other city representatives and protestors who were arrested for blocking the road in protest of a congressional budget deal. There was no violent resistance to the arrest.
The city officials had been blocking traffic in both directions on a street near a U.S. Senate office building in protest of the Democrats’ concessions to the Republicans in a budget deal that included controversial issues concerning the district. The mayor was questioned by the police for seven hours before being released on $50 bail.
What may not be more than local news to Americans comes across as extraordinary to Korean eyes. It demonstrates genuine U.S. democracy - that everyone is equal under the law.
The rudimentary principle is, however, often discounted in other societies, Korea included.
In a just society, anyone, regardless of wealth and status, should be responsible for his or her actions if he or she breaks the law. Society’s elite and leadership should obey the law to buttress law enforcement authority. Only then will the people have faith in the fairness of law enforcement.
But unfortunately, our society does not fit in that fair and just category. Senior government officials, politicians and the rich and famous act as if they are above the law.
Appointment hearings are a parade of corruption and illegality - false residential registration, tax evasion, military dodging and real estate speculation.
Members of the National Assembly came together recently to rewrite laws to save colleagues facing sentencing over illegal fund-raising. And a local council turned a blind eye to a councilor who was accused of theft. In another case, a man recruited his offspring to an institution he heads.
Low moral standards and unethical behavior by politicians and senior government officials not only bring disgrace to the state, but also undermine the public’s trust in the law. If leaders and the elite class squeeze their way out of legal constraints, they can hardly expect the people to do otherwise. The authority of law would be thrown to the dogs.
The arrest of Washington’s mayor is a resonant reawakening to the rightful behavior of a public official and the significance of law abidance.