Challenges for a democracyThe Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that the Unified Progressive Party be dissolved and its lawmakers be stripped of their status as legislators. In a rare decision, the high court decided to disband the far-left party on grounds that its activities constitute an obstruction of democratic order in our society.
The conflict over the legitimacy of the party stemmed from the clash between universal democratic values and the protection of democratic order under our unique situation of the tense military standoff between South and North Korea. After the ruling, Amnesty International immediately expressed concerns about a potential constriction of the freedom of speech and association. Despite the court’s decision, controversy is bound to follow because it has left many questions unanswered for our society as it tries to advance toward becoming a mature democracy.
The high court’s ruling was obviously a painful decision for a free democracy that is involved in a tense standoff with the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang. The case was filed by the Ministry of Justice to see if the UPP’s activities involving a clandestine meeting of a revolutionary organization to subvert the state through violent means in a bid to realize North Korean style socialism constituted an obstruction of the democratic order stipulated by the Constitution. In an eight to one decision, the court ruled the radical party be dissolved, given our “peculiar situation of confrontation with the North.”
The court underscored that the UPP’s leading group, which was affiliated with the National Liberation faction in the 1980s, aimed to seize power by establishing a progressive democracy under a new constitutional system by resorting to armed force, which resembles the revolutionary strategy of the North.
The court said the group’s meeting was aimed at destroying major infrastructure of the state if war broke out with the North and that goes against the rule of law in the South, even though the revolutionary organization’s discussions were not backed by concrete actions.
However, the ruling should not hurt the values of liberalism in our society. A mature democracy can prosper amid a coexistence of various values. A sclerotic society that does not disallow challenges is regressive. The decision to disband the UPP must not serve as an excuse for an oppression of progressive values in our society, nor should it shrink our freedoms of speech and association.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 20, Page 38