Restraint is needed

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Restraint is needed

The Democratic Party (DP) has gotten itself into hot water after filing a complaint with the prosecution over a critical column written by a scholar that ran in a local newspaper. After the drew a strong public backlash, the DP withdrew the complaint without bothering to issue an apology. After it pulled out, a number of loyalists moved in to unearth personal information about the author, Lim Mi-ri, a professor at Korea University. They filed a separate complaint with the National Election Commission. The slander campaign can seriously backfire and should be stopped immediately.

The incident underscores the serious delusion and arrogance of the DP leadership. It has attempted to file criminal charges against the author of the column, accusing her of violating the election law by advising voters not to vote for a self-absorbed party, which the DP has turned into. This kind of censorship is only possible under authoritarian military regimes of the past. Even after it dropped the charge, the party brought up the fact that she had worked for a think tank of an opposition party and had backed the impeachment of former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun.

Such framing is maneuvering to avoid the criticism about its impairment of the freedom of expression. It is shameful that the people who had once fought for democracy and freedom are resorting to the oppressive tools of our authoritarian past.

Lim accused the DP of trying to muffle critical voices. Even the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), which supports the Moon Jae-in administration, criticized the ruling party for censorship. Die-hard loyalists of the progressive front went too far this time. They have been attacking figures in the opposition camp through online slander. Their collective action has put a damper on the freedom of speech.

Yet the DP has been indulgent with the hyped and irrational actions of its loyal supporters. “The DP is leaving the dirty work to its followers. They have used these methods to silence the opposition,” wrote another outspoken liberal critic Chin Joong-kwon.

The ruling party must come to the awareness that its dichotomous — and frenzied — hostile response to anyone on the opposing side is doing harm to its reputation. Lim demanded an apology from the party for undermining her right to free expression. The DP must admit to its folly and advise restraint from its supporters.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 17, Page 30

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