+ A

Safeguarding our democracy

The entity that protects our liberty and country is the people of the Republic of Korea.
June 12,2017
It’s been a month since President Moon Jae-in was elected and a new administration was established. President Moon, other candidates and all Koreans are proud of the mature citizenship and law-abiding culture demonstrated throughout the impeachment of Park Geun-hye and special presidential election.

Yet, it’s not easy to remain composed after the storm of impeachment. Koreans are waiting for a new government organization to be established in accordance to the Constitutional standards, circumstances and public sentiment. As the new administration set out in the emergency situation with extremely limited time, it should be determined to meet the expectations and demands of various interest groups and deal with the complaints and concerns that may follow. At the same time, it needs to reaffirm that the historic mission and requirement for success for the new administration is aligned with the fundamental tasks the country faces.

The new administration faces a plethora of tasks that it had promised to address during the campaign, including creating jobs. It is not easy to set priorities and speed. Yet, the public has shown in the general election in April, 2016 and the impeachment and presidential election that people are increasingly calling for political reform as the beginning and a prerequisite for all other reforms.

In fact, this is the most crucial and challenging task, as past administrations that irresponsibly postponed this essential task ended up collapsing. President Moon promised that he would pursue a constitutional revision — the core of this challenge — and put the issue in the local election in June, 2018. As one year is hardly a long time, President Moon is demanded of solid political leadership.

The constitutional revision should include various changes in power structure, decentralization of the government and basic rights of citizens. The National Assembly special committee on constitutional revision and other groups have been proposing and discussing reform plans. However, the key to a successful constitutional revision is tolerance and compromise of diversity in politics and social values in addition to presidential leadership.

The president and the ruling party need to pursue the institutionalization of our political culture in a way that acknowledges governance by majority and the rights of minorities. The dilemma of democratic politics is that it is easy to condemn, but hard to convince those with different opinions. But sincerity to resolve the differences will make political reform towards cooperation and integration successful.

If political reform through revision of the Constitution, the Election Act and the Political Party act is the biggest challenge the Moon administration is faced with for democratic politics, another issue that is just as important — or even more pressing — is defending Korea’s liberty and peace amid the war clouds gathering over the Korean Peninsula. In addition to the geopolitical threats of being surrounded by powers like China, Russia and Japan, Korea has suffered severe damages from the imperialism and totalitarianism in the 20th century. So we have set the national policy based on democracy respecting freedom and human rights and internationalism of maintaining peace and preventing wars since the independence movement. Two weeks before the 67th anniversary of the Korean War, the nation is being tested on how difficult and costly it is to protect our freedom and peace and how crucial it is for all Koreans to show determination.

In contrast to South Korea’s internationalism and pacifism, North Korea is extremely unpredictable and champions militarism and nuclear programs. On top of the confrontation against the North, China is having difficulties controlling North Korea’s ambition to become the second nuclear power in the Pacific Asia region, while the United States is leading sanctions against the North. The relationship between the two powers add subtle uncertainty in the latest international politics.

Our diplomatic strategy and choice is more important than ever. Some may agree with — and envy — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s confidence to say Europe can no longer completely rely on the United States due to President Donald Trump’s America First policy. However, we must remember that Germany is the most powerful European nation that attained reunification 27 years ago. If politics is an art of possibilities, we need to once again emphasize the importance of the Korea-U.S. alliance that successfully protected Korea’s security and liberty for over 70 years.

In the end, the entity that protects our liberty and country is the people of the Republic of Korea, and we are confident that President Moon is determined to make a certain sacrifice. All people of South Korea will be with the president. Our support will be the very foundation of convincing North Korea, the United States, China and the international community of our existence, determination and vision for peace. We will march forward to defend free community and democratic country.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 10, Page 27

*The author, a former prime minister, is an advisor for the JoongAng Ilbo.

Lee Hong-koo