Reflection timeTwo years have passed since the ouster of President Park Geun-hye by the Constitutional Court. On March 10, 2017, the top court declared that the National Assembly’s impeachment of Park was constitutional. It expressed the hope that its decision would pave the way to harmony and healing after putting an end to national division. We cannot but wonder whether our political circles really understand the lessons of her dramatic fall from grace.
Our society is still stuck in confrontation and conflict. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) refrained from issuing a statement with regard to her impeachment. But the ruling Democratic Party (DP) criticized the LKP for trying to deny the impeachment and its call for a presidential pardon. Meanwhile, the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party has cast doubts on the government’s ability to embody the spirit of the candlelight vigil movement that contributed to Park’s impeachment. Last weekend, pro-Park forces staged rallies in Seoul demanding her release.
Park’s removal is irreversible. She was sent to prison according to the law. 234 lawmakers — 78 percent of the 299-member Assembly — voted for her impeachment. Moreover, the top court upheld the constitutionality of her impeachment in a unanimous vote. Ignoring such democratic decisions would be a brazen dismissal of our legal system.
The question is whether our society learned much from her impeachment. The Constitutional Court found fault with Park’s lopsided management of the government along with her violations of the Constitution to promote personal interests of her friend Choi Soon-sil. After the impeachment, political parties across the ideological spectrum all highlighted the importance of communication and co-governance with oppositional parties.
After two years, however, our politicians are trying to return to the past.
The liberal administration is turning a deaf ear to criticisms of its policies, while the ruling party is bent on defending the Blue House. In reaction, the LKP, led by its new leader Hwang Kyo-ahn — a former prime minister in the Park administration — is resorting to tough rhetoric. What has really changed?
The impeachment of Park showed that our outdated political culture should mature. President Moon Jae-in, the government and the legislature must all respect the principle of checks and balances: the time has come for self-reflection.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 11, Page 30