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[Opinion] Why Cannot Democracy and Justice Be Practiced?

[Opinion] Why Cannot Democracy and Justice Be Practiced?

Posted October. 12, 2001 08:32,   


Whenever bizarre cases such as `Lee Yong-Ho scandal` break out, we often hear that we need to come up with an institutional apparatus that can systemically prevent such incidents because they cannot be resolved by pushing a few related people. Here, an institutional apparatus indicates legal system. Clearly, some cases of injustice and corruption take place due to the insufficient legal system.

However, not all problems are resolved by the legal system. It is people, who make law, execute law, and keep law. Another system, no less important than legal system, is socio-cultural system, that is, value precepts and mode of behavior which are formed in daily lives. If socio-cultural system is not backed up, legal system cannot be maintained well.

For instance, `Lee Yong-Ho scandal`, which revealed the regional exclusiveness, took place neither because legal system has encouraged such regional exclusiveness nor because there was no legal system that pushiness such a behavior. The case was possible because there has been a unique socio-cultural climate that accepted such a behavior.

The fact that our constitution, which was made by collecting the best articles among the constitutions of the advanced democratic countries, was revised eight times reveals that our value precepts and mode of behavior cannot follow the behavior norms that are required by the constitution. The fact that the political party formed by champions of democracy is not being operated democratically shows that their mode of behavior was not able to internalize behavior norms that are required by democratic value precepts.

The point here is that value and behavior norms, which are formed by daily interaction and communication, function as an important system as legal system. Hence, the fact that legal system called democracy does not automatically operate and maintain sounds almost true. As long as people as citizens do not behave following the democratic values and mode of behavior, that is, if citizens do not activate, democracy cannot be maintained intact. This is the point of the theory of `double democratization` that argues that democracy can healthily advance when legal system and socio-cultural system function complementary to each other.

Two questions can be raised here. The first question is why champions of democracy cannot practice the behavior norms of democracy while crying for democracy? It seems that the lack of self-examination is the main reason. Although self-examination is similar to self-reflection in dictionary, there are huge differences between them as social scientific concepts. Three points that self-examination requires are as such; first, concrete efforts to supervise social environment that is the condition of behavior; second, accumulation of theoretical and experiential knowledge on reality as well as effort to examine them; third, the most important point, that is, efforts to practice such knowledge in reality, which is the most important factor.

The second question is why our leaders neglect self-examination, although one of the distinctive characteristics of the modernity is pointed to be to build and rebuild the society better through self-examination? Mind`s rapacious attachment seems to be the first factor. If one is obsessed by greed, one cannot see and hear right. Especially, absurd greed of the old is problematic. The second factor is furious mind. If one is furious about criticism, one cannot see and hear. The third factor is foolishness. Some are inherently foolish, other become foolish due to the old age. Again, if one is foolish, one cannot see and hear right.

There is a Buddhist saying that ``although a three-year-old child knows, an 80-year-old elder cannot put in practice.`` This points out the difficulty of practice. Practice is possible when subjective self-reflection is connected to the objective self-examination. Self-examination becomes intact when not only cognitive self-examination but also moral and aesthetic self-examination follow. However, as we look at the appointment of a minister, who was disapproved by the National Assembly that is the representative organization of people, to special advisor to Cheong Wa Dae, while democracy and people are reiterated whenever there is an opportunity, and the formation of new political parties by two elders who are almost 80 year-old, it is very curious to know whether leaders are even in a condition in which they can do self-reflection, not to mention self-examination.

Lee Min-Woong (Professor at Hanyang University, guest editorialist of Dong-a Ilbo)