Closure doesn’t come todayWe are depressed on judgement day. Whatever ruling the Constitutional Court delivers today, many of us will not accept it. Whether the court upholds the National Assembly’s impeachment of President Park Geun-hye or rejects it, the judgment will leave an indelible stain on our democracy.
That forces us to question the health of our political culture. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have repeatedly reneged on their basic duty as legislators, even into the 21st century. Instead of finding a way to address social conflict through dialogue and compromise, they are determined to exploit social fissures and political battles for their own personal careers. That leads to an endless war of accusations and lawsuits against each other.
As a result, the Constitutional Court has had to tackle a myriad of contentious issues from the legislature — the impeachment trial of former President Roh Moo-hyun, the constitutionality of a special law on the creation of a new administrative capital, for instance — which should have been politically solved by lawmakers. Democracy allows politicians to resort to a judicial judgment for tough issues, but our legislators are always going too far. It’s a vicious cycle: the legislature fails to do its duty of solving a problem and kicks it down the road to a court. This only lessens the Assembly’s integrity and deepens public distrust of politics.
President Park’s fate could have been addressed in a political way. When she expressed her intention to leave the issue of her stepping down or shortening her term to the legislature, the opposition camp rejected the proposal. Leading presidential candidate Moon Jae-in from the Democratic Party flip-flopped on the issue of forming a kind of unity government including the opposition after Park tried to appoint a figure recommended by the legislature as prime minister. If a “big-tent” cabinet had been set up and Park had been allowed to step down, we wouldn’t have the extreme confrontation over her impeachment between protesters carrying candles and those waving flags.
The ruling party must take the lion’s share of responsibility for the current mess. The pro-Park faction of the party ended up pushing their boss into a corner after attempting to monopolize power without even communicating with the president.
Korea needs a stronger kind of statesmanship to achieve national harmony and integration. Regardless of the power dynamics in the legislature, lawmakers must find ways to stitch up the schisms in our society. Only when our politics return to normal can we heal the wounds.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 10, Page 30