A crisis of democracyKorea University Emeritus Professor Choi Jang-jip pointedly said, “The arrival of the Moon Jae-in administration has brought about the polarization of conservatism in Korea — and a crisis of democracy.” His diagnosis is that President Moon’s exercise of his powers based on leftist populism shows signs of totalitarianism reminiscent of our past authoritarian governments, which did not allow criticism.
Such dangerous inclinations deepened after the ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections, as clearly seen in its railroading of a number of controversial bills on real estate and the establishment of a special law enforcement body targeting high-level officials, including judges and prosecutors. Such a high-handed approach also applies to the DP’s strong resistance to investigations by the prosecution and any oversight by the civic community. Its relentless meddling — particularly since the appointment in January of five-term lawmaker Choo Mi-ae as justice minister — in the prosecution’s probes into abuse of power by the powers that be is proof positive.
After Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl underscored the need to “fight dictatorship and totalitarianism disguised as democracy” in a welcome ceremony for new prosecutors, DP lawmakers are fiercely attacking him. That lays bare the administration’s reluctance to accept any criticism. In an ironical twist, the people who praised Yoon when he rolled up his sleeves to bring past conservative government officials to justice are calling him “public enemy No.1.”
Looking back on the attacks the DP has been waging on Yoon since his investigations of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, an icon of liberalism in Korea, we cannot but wonder if the DP and government really have any intention to uphold the rule of law.
On the same day that Yoon accentuated a crusade against a deceiving democracy before new prosecutors, Justice Minister Choo demanded from them a “strictness to yourselves like an autumn frost and generosity to others like a spring breeze.” Who would believe such words from a minister who threatened to deprive Prosecutor General Yoon of his right to command criminal investigations?
If Yoon and his colleagues want to establish a democracy through the rule of law, they must get to the bottom of a myriad of suspicions about the alleged sexual assault by the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and the apparent misuse of public donations by Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang as head of a civic group aimed at helping wartime sex slaves.