Irrecoverable damage in 2020
The author is the head of national 1 team ofthe JoongAng Ilbo.
The effects of Covid-19 have been powerful, and they are getting stronger. In 2020, the entire nation became depressed. Our legal scandals didn’t help. The climax was the fight between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, who recently tendered her resignation, and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who was formally disciplined. Choo, who succeeded former Justice Minister Cho Kuk earlier this year, used her investigation authority several times, including an unprecedented reprimand of the top prosecutor. Yoon sued the ministry to restore his integrity. The key point is whether his two-month suspension is “irrecoverable damage.” Yoon claimed there is serious damage to the prosecutor’s political neutrality. Fortunately, a Seoul administrative court ruled in favor of Yoon on Christmas Eve.
But regardless of the legal debate, I find that the irrecoverable damage occurred elsewhere. It’s the destruction of common sense we believed to be a right. Through 2020, we witnessed a lack of common sense, not just in the Justice Ministry’s disciplinary action on Yoon.
In July, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon committed suicide. When a secretary raised sexual harassment allegations against him, the ruling party called her an “alleged victim” and Park’s supporters committed secondary assault on her. If they really mourn for the deceased, isn’t it common sense to show a minimum courtesy to the surviving victim?
The government took pride in its successful disease control through the year. But it’s helpless before the third wave of the pandemic. The government’s success in disease control owed much to citizens’ “voluntary cooperation not to harm others.” But no vaccines have been secured. The government suddenly said that safety comes before securing vaccines. Isn’t it common sense to beg for forgiveness if no vaccines have been acquired?
The ruling party enjoyed a landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections and secured a majority, controlling 180 seats including its allies in the National Assembly. The operation of the legislature afterwards was literally “winner-take-all.” The ruling party mentioned “rule by majority” and the National Assembly Act, but people surely know it’s common sense to operate with agreements between ruling and opposition parties.
Let’s go back to the Justice Ministry. After Minster Choo took office, most of her appointments could not avoid the criticism that she massacred Yoon’s allies in the prosecution to prevent an investigation into the current administration. Disciplinary action against Yoon was no different. It is common sense that if she really wanted to oust the prosecutor general, she should have directly conveyed her intention to the president, who ultimately has the appointment authority, instead of going through a disciplinary committee meeting to remove the upright prosecutor general from office.