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On the road to chaos

Feb 27,2017
The weekend rally in downtown Seoul streets peaked on Saturday, marking the fourth year since President Park Geun-hye took office, with signs of fiery heat between the camps supporting and protesting the president’s impeachment. A man in his 60s was stopped by police while trying to pour gasoline on himself among the crowd of rightists opposing Park’s impeachment. The ultra-rightists proposed to go on a hunger strike in front of the Constitutional Court currently deliberating its verdict on Park while some even threatened the lives of the justices, including the Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi, if they deliver a ruling that ends Park’s term.

It’s a pity our society still bears immature and underdeveloped disregard for the law and the legal justice institution. But the liberals are equally childish and insensible. The leading opposition presidential candidates Moon Jae-in, former head of the Democratic Party, South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung and Seongnam City Mayor Lee Jae-myung took to the streets to join the protest supporting impeachment. Lee vowed to fight “till the end” if the Constitutional Court does not remove Park. We are dumfounded that an elected local government head can publicly challenge the authority of the Constitutional Court and the judiciary order.

National division has deepened, yet political leaders are fanning the flames. Instead of chasing votes, they must show constraint and endeavor to narrow the schism. But not one of the candidates has shown such sensible leadership.

They are, in fact, spearheading disparaging campaigns to mount pressure on the Constitutional Court. Moon said not removing Park was “unimaginable.” Seongnam Mayor Lee went further to pledge to make the court “liable” if it does so. The aftermath of the ruling raises serious concerns given the fiery statements from presidential candidates. Regardless of the verdict, the country would be in disarray with at least one side unwilling to accept the result. The conflict would be as grave as when Koreans were torn between pro-democracy and pro-communists after they were freed from the Japanese colonization. In such severe division, no leader regardless who wins the election will be able to command the nation. Presidential candidates should act and speak in consideration of the post-trial aftermath.

Some in the ruling camp are proposing that the president step aside regardless of the ruling. If the president voluntarily steps down, the potential social upheaval following her prosecution could be avoided. But both the president and the opposition are against the idea. Presidential candidates and parties must vow to concede to the court ruling and call upon social restraint to prevent chaos.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 27, Page 34