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[FACULTY EDITORIAL] The Crisis of Democracy in Contemporary Korean Society
FACULTY EDITORIAL | 승인 2012.06.29 17:42|(232호)

    During military regimes, the word "democracy" was just an idea. Many opposition leaders and students fought for it very hard and some of them were tortured and even killed. In the their sacrifice paid off: the military dictatorship collapsed in June 1987. the So-called civilian government with accompanying democratic values has become the norm since then. The word "democracy" is not just an ideal but in the real world.
    However, this is not the end of the story. Many of us didn't realize democracy is a cumbersome and is even inefficient from the standpoint of economics. Democracy meant just a republican form of government to many Koreans. Especially alter the IMF crisis in 1997, democracy was often recognized as one of the major obstacles to sustained economic growth. The majority of the Korean population became impatient with the performance of the two civilian governments headed by Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-Hyun, respectively, despite many achievements during their terms in terms of procedural democracy and welfare policy. 
    Against this backdrop, Lee Myung-Bak was elected as president in December 2007. He was regarded as a savior of the Korean economy at that time. He promised the general public a bright future. However, what happened after his election was filled with irregularities. He and his political supporters turned out to be "anti-majoritarian" rulers. They have tried ti turn back the clock. The freedom of expression, the freedom of the press, labor rights, welfare rights, the right to a clean environment and other fundamental human rights have been reduced to a nominal level by the de facto authoritarian rule. The "Four-River" maintenance project, the failed attempt to revise t he "Sejong City" legislation, and the use of scare tactics through the mobilization of the prosecution and the police are, among other things, vivid examples showing the authoritarian character of the current Lee administration.  
   A hard lesson is gleaned with a heavy price from this experience. As democracy fails to work, everything goes wrong; the lives of the working minorities become miserable. Democracy is too vulnerable to the invisible threat of the well-organized few equipped with money and power to sustain itself without the strong solidarity of the common people.
    
What I'd like to tell the readers is this. in order to protect the democracy that is so fundamental to out daily lives, each of us as a citizen must watch out for power abuses react to any attempt to weaken democracy in a decisive in a decisive manner. Especially, teenagers and young people in their 20s and early 30s should strengthen their political awareness, should get more involved in real politics, and should be more politically liberal and show interest in the common concerns of society. Individualism and conservatism cannot be solutions to the "structural" social problems facing most young people, such as high unemployment rates and thc instability in employment. The revival of democracy is a starring point for improving average Koreans' quality of life. It is time for us to be politically liberal and active.

 

By Choi In-ho
Assistant
Professor, Law School

FACULTY EDITORIAL  -

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