Toward a proud nation
The author is an international, diplomatic and security news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said that one becomes just by acting just and becomes brave by acting brave. If an individual, organization or government wants to become just and brave, it must act so. Verbal arguments not backed by action are powerless.
In Korea, justness is determined by whether it abides by the liberal democratic principles defined by the Constitution. Limiting personal rights guaranteed by the Constitution for the purpose of keeping national security and social order should remain minimal. Excessive restrictions on personal rights undermine the constitutional spirit and cannot win.
A considerable number of government policies cannot be justified. As a result, people are divided, and trust in the government fell. The most notable is a bill aimed at banning leaflets to North Korea. The government and ruling Democratic Party (DP) passed the act that calls for anyone who sends propaganda to North Korea to serve a jail term up to three years or pay up to 30 million won ($28,000) in fines. The new House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, the U.S. government and Congress and international human rights groups oppose the law as it limits freedom of speech and makes it hard to transfer information to North Korea residents. If the Congress holds a hearing on the issue next month, the Moon administration can be criticized for being an anti-human rights state. The Joe Biden’s administration, which values human rights, and the Korean government could have a rough start.
This problem arose because the Moon administration and the DP obsess over improving inter-Korean relations while overlooking freedom of speech clearly defined by our Constitution and conditions in North Korea. A Moon administration that promised to value democracy and human rights rejected them by enacting the bill. As a result, Korea t is about to take a step back.
The government and DP neglect democratic values or reality when North Korea is involved. At his New Year’s address on Jan. 4, Unification Minister Lee In-young said that as North Korea’s eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party convention and Joe Biden’s inauguration are to be held this month, some cosmic energy was converging on the Korean Peninsula. The absurd remarks sound like a fortune teller who advocates cosmic energy with regard to the peninsula issues.
The government has lost direction in prosecution reforms, too. The reform initially began to protect human rights by redistributing power concentrated on prosecutors. But the focus has shifted to disabling prosecutors aimed at the sitting power. Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeoul was applauded for investigating the past administration’s wrongdoings at the beginning of the Moon administration. But as his sword targets the current administration, the government used various tactics to drive him out. It is very fortunate that a court put the brakes on Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s abuse of power.
The new Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) will oversee allegations of the Blue House’s involvement in the Ulsan mayoral race and the interruption of inspections on the economic feasibility of the Wolseong-1 reactor. The success of the new law enforcement agency will be determined by how it handles corruption allegations about powers that be.
Approval ratings for the government and the DP are declining because their actions do not match their words. The Cho Kuk scandal showed double standards of the pro-Moon groups who are generous to their faults and merciless to opponents’ mistakes. If the government and DP do not care for the people and advocate reforms for their own sake, the public will be aggravated.
Ancient Roman philosopher Seneca said that life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present and fear the future. Rash policies of the government and ruling party for reform seem to show anxiousness. Reforms have less noise and more impact when they go with the flow. Otherwise, they would face resistance and fail. I want to see a proud nation with democratic principles in the new year.