What about the people’s will?

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What about the people’s will?

The author is an innovation lab reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Which one of the following is correct? 1) In 2012, five out of ten citizens (51.6 percent) voted for Park Geun-hye. 2) In 2017, four out of ten citizens (41.1 percent) voted for Moon Jae-in. The answer is neither.

If you expand the sample group from those who voted to the total voters, Park got 39 percent in 2012, or 15.8 million votes, and in 2017, President Moon got 31.6 percent, or 13.4 million votes. That means that 61 percent and 68.4 percent of the people did not vote for the president at the time, respectively.

This is where politicians begin to misunderstand. They exaggerate their ideas as if they are public opinion by using expressions like “people’s will” or “order of the citizens” just because they got a majority of votes. The current administration investigated deep-rooted evils that a majority did not agree because it is the “candlelight protest’s spirit,” and it promoted unreasonable policies. It pushed for a nuclear phase-out and income-led growth policies against the opposing opinions of experts.

Can the drive be possible if the will of the 68.4 percent who did not vote for Moon was accepted modestly? When former Justice Minister Cho Kuk was appointed in September, the advice of Choi Jang-jib, an honorary professor at Korea University and an authority in progressive politics, was ignored. Choi criticized that it was “abuse of power beyond the basic principle of democracy and exercise of power as it transcended the law” at the time.

Representative democracy is a political system that cares for the 68.4 percent of the citizens that did not vote for the president. Unlike a monarchy, politicians need to clearly acknowledge the limits of delegated power and embrace critical citizens. Then, there wouldn’t have been remarks ridiculing protesters wearing masks or the arrogance of mentioning “long-term governance for two decades.”

Choi diagnosed that political power only focuses on power and public opinions are not represented by parties. He argued in his book “Democracy after Democratization” that the biggest discord in Korean society is the crack between the group represented through politics and the group that is not.

But the ruling party is encouraging anger in the public forum with framings like pro-Japanese and deep-rooted evils rather than closing the crack. It would be nice if the opposition was doing well, but they are incompetent at embracing the people who turned their backs on the ruling party. As a result, a survey last month showed that 42.2 percent of the respondents do not support a party. That means that if voters are consumers and parties are products, four out of 10 customers don’t have a product to buy. If it was a store, it would have gone out of business.

Lawmaker Kim Se-yeon called the opposition Liberty Korea Party a “harm to history and a lifeless zombie.” That can be applied to the party politics as a whole. The biggest crisis of Korea’s representative democracy is the absence of representative democracy.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 25, Page 32
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