Self-awarding must stopThe Democratic Party (DP), a supermajority in the National Assembly, is again attempting to motion a bill to honor and reward activists of former democracy movements. The motion was first filed by Rep. Woo Won-shik in 2020 under the Moon Jae-in administration, but was shelved in the face of strong criticism that lawmakers are self-rewarding them for their past democratization activities.
A similar bill was also filed and withdrawn by Rep. Sul Hoon last year. As many as 174 legislators — including 163 DP members and others aligned to the liberal party — have signed into motioning the bill again. The number could easily pass the 300-member legislature regardless of oppositions from the governing People Power Party (PPP).
The bill proposes to honor those who had protested against past military regimes and subsidize their bereaved family members in medical and education expenses and grant long-term loans at low rates. Their descendants can have 10 percent privilege points when applying for jobs at public corporations or the government. They claim that they are not self-rewarding by restricting the benefits to families of those who died or went missing, or those injured for their activities, during their democracy movements.
Since their offspring are granted special admissions to colleges, the system could raise controversy of fairness. Even without the special law, 119 applicants were accepted to universities for their relation to “democracy movements,” over eight years until 2020. When relevant data was first revealed, many retorted what relationship there was between college admissions and democracy movements and why the democracy movement had to receive such a special honor in college admissions. The guidelines to special admission to college should be strict.
Granting special scores in employment can trigger accusations of unfairness. Many young people cannot find jobs after graduating from good colleges. A gender conflict has prevailed over the presidential election. Public outcry over the daughter of former justice minister Cho Kuk for admission irregularities and the hiring of an acquaintance to the presidential office of Yoon Suk-yeol originated from the same reason. The young generation won’t be able to agree to their privileges to college admissions and hiring for having parents who had fought for democracy.
Those who had lost their lives or became permanently impaired for fighting for democracy should be honored. There are already many benefits through laws to pay respect and compensate for their sacrifices. The track record has made many of them lawmakers and government ministers. Many had aspired for democracy under military regimes. Honoring just a few can only stoke public resentment.