No violence whatsoeverThe 8th candlelight demonstration scheduled for Saturday in central Seoul is poised to take a new turn in protesting the Choi Soon-sil scandal involving President Park Geun-hye. The rally is aimed at pressuring the Constitutional Court to reach its final ruling on the constitutionality of Park’s involvement in the scandal and at urging Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president after her Dec. 9 impeachment, to step down.
Organizers of the rally are determined to put pressure on the highest court with the catchphrase “Justice delayed is justice denied” and deny Hwang’s role as interim leader of the country by labeling him as a “collaborator” on the scandal. Such a stance could hurt the independence of the judicial branch and turn the peaceful candlelight vigils into a means for politicizing the issue.
Expressing pros and cons about the impeachment pertains to the realm of the freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution. Trials must uphold the principle of speed and fairness. But if one weighs down the other, it could critically hurt the value of fairness. Only when the top court is guaranteed procedural fairness and independence can the court achieve the two crucial values.
The Constitutional Court began preparations Friday for a full-fledged review of the documents which the president’s lawyers sent to refute the reasons for her impeachment. It is not too late if the protest organizers take action after watching the court’s deliberations. No matter how noble a cause the rally pursues, it must not put psychological pressure on judges.
Acting President Hwang cannot shirk his responsibility for helping lead the country to this poor state. Opponents can separately find fault with his career as a prosecutor. But they must not stigmatize him as a “classic prosecutor synonymous with the oppression of democracy activists and a corrupt, pro-chaebol lawyer” after dragging him to the court of public opinion. Such a mindset will only encourage a certain political group to dilute the purity of the peaceful candlelight vigils.
The possibility of physical clashes with conservative groups also rings alarm bells, as they vowed to stage a massive demonstration to protest Park’s impeachment on the same day. The conservative camp is increasingly raising their voices through large-scale screens and loud speakers during their demonstrations. Violent protests must be averted. We must maintain purity and maturity.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 17, Page 30