Democracy falls apart
The author is the head of the Economic Eye Teamof the JoongAng Ilbo.
People’s everyday lives are on pause, but politicians are busy and issues of democracy are frequently being mentioned. Railroading a number of bills through the National Assembly thanks to its supermajority, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) advocated the “completion of democracy” as it is seeing the fruits of its fight against dictatorship.
The opposition People Power Party (PPP) is not the only one feeling helpless. Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce representing interests of business owners, couldn’t hide how dispirited he was to see one antimarket bill after another pass the legislature. “I cannot help but question why public hearings were held.” He asked if it was right to urgently pass the bills that have great impact on the economy and businesses.
Concerns about a series of administrative actions led by the Blue House have long been raised. Article 123 of the criminal law on power abuse that the current administration invoked to “root out the past evils of the Park Geun-hye administration and former Chief Justice Yang Seung-tae” has boomeranged. The early shutdown of the Wolsong-1 reactor following the blacklist case involving the Ministry of Environment is just the beginning. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae took the lead in ousting Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl from active duty after he investigated the corruption of the powers that be.
But compiling reasons to reprimand Yoon shows traces of power abuse. Some even joke that the clause on “public servants’ abuse of authority to have someone do a job” can be revised by the DP thanks to its overwhelming majority.
Some recalled “With a Burning Thirst,” a 1975 poem by Kim Ji-ha, who fought against the Yusin Constitution and emergency measures. The song that people sang on the streets and at universities in the ‘80s and ‘90s are now directed to those who protested against dictatorship in the past.
Criticism has surfaced already. When a revision to the Corruption Investigation Office (CIO) for High-ranking Officials was passed to disable the opposition’s veto last week, there was one abstention. It was from Jang Hye-young of the Justice Party, which had decided to support the bill on a party level. Jang said that prosecution reforms for democracy should be attained through the most democratic method. “There is no prosecution reform without democracy,” she said.
On reprimanding Yoon, President Moon Jae-in said that procedural justification and fairness were very important. That translates into a demand for democratic methods.