Betraying our democracyThe ruling Democratic Party (DP) frequently used its super-majority in the National Assembly to railroad any bill it likes through. The DP is preparing to do exactly that with a very controversial amendment to the Media Arbitration Act on Wednesday despite strong opposition from opposition parties and press organizations at home and abroad.
Kwon Kyung-ae, a liberal lawyer, once characterized the Moon Jae-in administration as a body representing the liberal People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) and the Lawyers for a Democratic Society (LDS). Even the LDS has recently issued a statement calling for prudence from the DP to build a public consensus on its reckless crusade for media reform. The progressive lawyers’ group stressed the need to dilute the amendment’s excessive regulations for media organizations although it agrees to the punitive damages stipulated in the bill. (The bill allows punitive damages of up to five times the damages claimed against media companies for “fake news,” for instance.) The statement criticized the DP for rushing to legislate what can be seen as oppression of the freedom of the press.
The Korea Foundation for Press Freedom (KOPF), an association of veteran journalists who fought for the freedom of speech during the time of military regimes, joined the chorus by demanding the DP consider public opinion before railroading the amendment through, as it could “restrict the press freedom we painfully earned after going through the long military dictatorship.” Yoo Ihn-tae, a former lawmaker and Blue House secretary for political affairs under President Roh Moo-hyun, expressed deep concern about the bill.
Despite vehement opposition and worries from international press organizations, academia and legal circles, the DP is pressing ahead with the contentious bill. We seriously wonder if there are any particular reasons for the party to pass it. Chin Joong-kwon, an outspoken leftist-turned-right wing pundit, mocked the bill for “aiming to give benefits to the sitting power with clauses full of unconstitutionality.”
Under such circumstances, President Moon has kept his silence. Yoo Young-min, Moon’s chief of staff, flatly said, “That’s not a case that requires a Blue House intervention.” But the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is involved. The Moon administration has been under attack for being a “Blue House-dominated government.” Yet the president keeps mum. Why?
A majority of DP lawmakers were once democracy fighters, but now they are jeopardizing their hard-earned democracy. Why?