Heyday of democratization

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Heyday of democratization

The author is the head of Daejeon bureau of the JoongAng Ilbo.

In 1960, the year of the April 19 Revolution, there was also a democratization movement in Daejeon. One thousand high school students rallied, calling for the ousting of the Liberal Party on March 8, 1960. It is now called the March 8 Democratization Movement.

The city of Daejeon plans to open a memorial commemorating the event. The memorial is to open on March 8, 2024 and is expected to cost 15.6 billion won ($13.2 million).

The government is contributing 5.8 billion won to the construction costs. In November 2018, March 8 was designated as a national memorial day. Last year, the first memorial ceremony was held as a national event, and Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon attended and promised to support the construction.

However, the memorial project is struggling due to a lack of content and expected revenues. Recently, a review on the project was requested with the central government investment assessment at the Ministry of the Interior and Safety. The democratization movement-related facility was provided with a priority budget, but it turned out that the project lacked substance. Key materials related to the event are just a few photos.

Other local governments are also promoting democratization movement-related memorials. Changwon, South Gyeongsang, is to build the Democracy Hall by 2024, with a considerable portion of the 30.3 billion won cost coming from the central government. Various regions have formed democratization movement project committees, and regulations on respectful treatment and assistance for those related to the democratization movement have been made. The government is supporting the cause. It is the heyday of democratization.

But some people are uncomfortable with the obsession over democratization. In the last three years, things seem to be regressing. The current administration dominates the legislative, judiciary and administrative branches and does everything it wants to do. The National Assembly was quick to pass three lease-related acts: deposit-based and monthly lease registration, deposit and monthly rent ceiling and claim for contract renewal — all which seem to be based on totalitarian ideas. As a result, some argue that they could infringe on people’s property rights. Property rights are a core value of the liberal democracy. Freedom of speech is also contracting. A recently motioned revision on the special act on the Jeju April 3 Incident states that refusing or distorting the truth finding results with a purpose of slandering the victims and their families is subject to imprisonment or fines.

Last month, 12 lawmakers motioned a bill that requires a democratic citizenship education course as a curriculum requirement. Some parents protest that it is likely to be a biased political and ideological education. The self-proclaimed democratization group boasts they fought the military dictatorship, but latest moves seem that they learned from the dictatorship. Military dictatorship is not the only kind. There can be a “civilian dictatorship.”
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