Over-the-top legislationThe Constitution bans any violation of individual freedoms and civilian rights. For instance, it cannot tolerate legislative actions that can undermine freedom and rights even for the purpose of protecting national security and public welfare. The same principle applies to the freedom of expression. It goes against the spirit of a free democracy if a certain ruling power or group forces its thoughts and evaluation on historic affairs.
The revisions the ruling Democratic Party (DP) proposes to make on the special laws honoring the May 18, 1980, Gwangju Democracy Movement and the April 3, 1948, Jeju civilian uprising raise concerns about free expression. The DP proposes a maximum seven-year jail term or fine of 70 million won ($59,706) for denial, slander, distortion, fabrication or disinformation regarding the two events.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition to uphold democracy. It cannot be democracy if critical comments on historic events like May 18 and April 3 movements are disallowed. Imposing singular ideas and beliefs is totalitarian, not democratic.
It is also a legislative overstretch to have the state punish an individual even when there is a legal procedure against individual defamation. Defamation is rarely a criminal case in the United States. Slander is usually dealt with in civil litigation through damage claims. The state should keep out of individual disputes. In a seminar hosted by the liberal People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a foreign professor cited the case as the government restricting freedom of expression through public authority.
The revision could also trigger controversy about the liberal camp’s attempt to impose its own interpretation on history. The DP vehemently opposed the idea of publishing a uniform history textbook under the former Park Geun-hye administration by claiming, “History must not belong to a certain individual, group or political party.” History cannot be interpreted or evaluated by a ruling regime. Instead, history evaluates the regime. What would the liberals say if the conservative Liberty Korea Party proposes that the state punish anyone denying the North Korean invasion in the 1950-53 Korean War or the North’s attack on the South Korean naval warship in 2010?
JoongAng Ilbo, May 9, Page 30