Mucking with the Constitution

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Mucking with the Constitution

The fiasco of the ruling Democratic Party correcting its outline of a rewrite of the 1987 Constitution a few hours after its release raises serious concerns about the liberal party’s real motive for pursuing constitutional reform. In its original outline, the party removed the word “free” from Article 4, which defines the national policy direction of pursuing peaceful unification based on basic free democracy principles. The party restored the word “free” four hours later after the outline’s release and claimed it was a typographical error. But skepticism lingered.

The issue of leaving out the word “free” from the democratic order has long been disputed among liberal scholars. As the party’s floor spokeswoman Je Youn-kyung explained, a reunified Korea may not be able to stick to its political system of free democracy once it becomes one with North Korea, which has lived under a socialist system for more than a half a century. The unified Koreas may have to choose a different or unique hybrid system of free or socialist democracy with respect to North Koreans. The constitutional reform drafted by an advisory commission of the National Assembly, which also stirred controversy over being left-leaning, also took out the word “free” in its proposal.

Representative democracy differentiates itself from fascism through the universal right to a vote and free and equal elections. A free democracy differs from communism through the guarantee of multiple political parties to fend off dictatorship and with respect to a free market economy. This is our hard-won national identity, which the majority of our population cannot agree to yield. The genuine principles of free democracy should not be misinterpreted because past military regimes abused the ideas to glorify their monopoly on power through anticommunism dogma. Few in our society think our national identity should change upon unification. This may explain why more than 70 among 120 DP members opposes the move of taking out the word “free.”

The DP’s outline had other questionable details such as employing social economic concepts and turning land into a public asset. It also attempted to include mentions of the candlelight vigils that ousted a former president and placed President Moon Jae-in in power in the new Constitution without waiting for any historical evaluation or public consensus.

The Constitution is our fundamental guidance on national governance and civilian rights. It must encompass universal values and be agreed to by all the people. What the broad population has agreed and demanded from a new Constitution is correcting an over-powerful and centralized presidency, not changing our national identity. It is outrageous for the DP to attempt just that simply because it is in power. The DP hardly would have thought its idea could be accepted by an opposition-led legislative. It may have floated the idea for negotiating purposes or strengthening support from its left-leaning voting base. But the Constitution is too valuable to be used as a bargaining chip.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 3, Page 30
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