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Reflecting on the past year after the impeachment

Posted December. 09, 2017 07:05,   

Updated December. 09, 2017 08:10


“President Park Geun-hye has fundamentally betrayed the confidence entrusted to the president by the people in violation of the constitution and the law with respect to performance of her duties.” It was the statement made by South Korea’s impeachment committee in the plenary session of the National Assembly a year ago today. To put it in a nutshell, former President Park has impaired the spirit of popular sovereignty and representative democracy by abusing her power as the president to allow a private man, her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, to unlawfully influence state affairs.

The impeachment bill was passed by a vote of 234 for and 56 against with two abstentions and seven invalid votes, securing the support of 200 votes for a quorum. It was the beginning of a new history. Well, it would be more accurate to say that a new history had already begun a month ago. The people who were outraged at a wide-range corruption and cronyism scandal by the president took to the streets and held candlelight rallies, eventually leading to the constitutional impeachment procedures to dismiss Park. Such mass public protests served as the starting point as well as the driving force of Moon Jae-in’s winning the presidency in half a year after the impeachment.

The impeachment of an incumbent president was a kind of the glorious revolution since there had been no precedent for orderly mass demonstrations to expel the country’s head of state in accordance with the rule of law. The spirit behind the unprecedented event can be summarized as follows: to strengthen separation of legislative, administrative and judicial powers in that the president’s imperial power cannot be tolerated anymore; to uphold representative democracy and the rule of law that a president who violated the constitution is punished pursuant to the constitution; to rectify the principle of market economy that there should be no cozy relations between politics and business; and the people’s aspiration that this should never happen again in the future. These are also mandates given to the Moon Jae-in administration.

Today marks seven months since the inauguration of President Moon, and we should look back whether his administration has been faithful to the demands of the times. Not many people would think that President Moon, who is known for humble, down-to-earth personality and democratic leadership, would wield power at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae, just like his predecessor. However, could it be another face of the imperial presidency if a piece of criticism of the president is instantly faced with tangible and intangible threat and pressure? Can we call it representative democracy if the presidential office conducts state affairs ignoring opinion from the parliament and the opposition parties? Most of all, can it be said that we are moving in the right direction in terms of the rule of law and for the future of our nation when the task forces established in each department with no clear legal basis, have indiscriminately been obsessed with finding any wrongdoings in the previous administrations, under the name of the so-called eradication of deep-rooted irregularities?

Besides, there seems little improvement in the relations between the government and businesses. The Moon Jae-in administration may be controlling businesses with more effective ways that could shake the market economy, by introducing minimum wages, working hour reduction, irregular workers and labor board system, if not like an authoritarian administration threatening owners of companies. In addition to inspection and judicial agencies, public institutions continue to undergo major reshuffle. More and more people have become weary of the recurrent fight against the past.

Now is the time to turn our eyes from the past to the future, and from inside to outside. In a crisis where the U.S. government and people are talking about possible evacuation of Americans residing in Korea and expressing concerns about the safety of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, we do not have the luxury of blaming each other. We have done enough with the clearing out of the evils. Now we need to move on to how to improve our system with the results obtained in the investigation. This also corresponds to the concept of “grand unification” that President Moon stressed during election campaign. No matter how instable the circumstances surrounding the country, the people will trust and follow the leader if he takes the lead in getting through the difficulties.