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Decision making by public debate commission

Posted October. 25, 2017 08:00,   

Updated October. 25, 2017 08:17

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Kim Ji-hyung, chairperson of the Public Debate Commission about Shin Kori No. 5 and No. 6 reactors, had an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo Tuesday and stated that "the social and economic costs of public opinion survey are pretty high." The former justice of the Supreme Court has also taken precautions against public opinion survey becoming the silver bullet, which seeks to resolve social conflicts through public opinion. "Public opinion surveys are meaningful as a supplementary tool when representative democracy fails to reflect the opinions of citizens," Kim said. "There is no need to stick to public opinion surveys when representative democracy is operating properly."

After the public debate commission's recommendation to resume the construction of the two nuclear reactors, more people are claiming to use public opinion survey as a tool to solve politically and socially sensitive issues. Some members of the ruling party say that issues concerning the disposal of used nuclear fuel and the four-river restoration project can be solved through public opinion survey as well. "Promoting policies based on social agreement that citizens directly participate in public debate is much more valuable than a small number of experts reaching an agreement on national assignments and promoting it,” President Moon Jae-in also stated during a Cabinet Meeting on Tuesday. This reflects his willingness to use public opinion survey model in the future. President Moon has emphasized the reinforcement of direct democracy, saying he will be with “collective intelligence of citizens.”

Public opinion survey was praised as a method for deliberative democracy, which draws social agreement on sharp conflicts. However, public opinion survey cannot solve every single conflict. Some people still point out that it is risky to have ordinary citizens to make decisions on sectors that require expertise such as the nuclear reactor in particular. The result of the recent survey was mostly accepted by the pros and cons of resuming the construction of nuclear reactors. However, this may not be the case all the time. Public opinion survey may actually become an element that instigates serious conflicts.

As Kim pointed out, solving conflicts through public opinion survey is clear evidence that South Korea's representative democracy is not functioning properly. The government and the National Assembly’s failure to come up with an answer on political and social issue and shifting the responsibility to citizens, is practically shaking the basis of representative democracy. If this continues to happen, why do we have to even bother electing president and National Assembly members?