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[Editorial] The Right to Survive: the Basis of All Human Right

[Editorial] The Right to Survive: the Basis of All Human Right

Posted December. 10, 2004 22:30,   


Novelist Park Kyung-ri, well-known for his book “The Land,” recently mentioned in an interview, “Life and survival are more important than politics and art.” This remark is worth deliberating by those who are responsible for national affairs in these hard times.

It was the 56th Human Rights Day yesterday. The right to survive, which is guaranteed in the Constitution, is the core and the basis of all other basic human rights. It is a right to eat and live as a human, and is equivalent to the freedom from hunger stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Without life and survival, freedom and human rights are pointless.

The current administration has emphasized distribution more than any other former governments, but ordinary people are experiencing as dismal an economic situation as ever. As the driving force behind the economy dies, the disparities of wealth have widened. Most self-employed, small-, and medium-sized businesses are collapsing.

Recently, there was a terrible accident in which three children burned to death while their father, a policeman, was on night shift and the mother went out to deliver newspapers. College graduates are not given an opportunity to work and instead become dropouts of society. “People’s livelihood is more important than the growth rate itself,” said the president of the Bank of Korea, Park Seung. He added, “People are suffering from growth without employment, and this misery could continue for five to 10 years.” What he means is that it is hard to forecast when the plight in which the survival of ordinary people is threatened might draw to a close.

Mencius once stressed that the first step of politics is to provide decent housing, food, and clothes to the people. As he said, property makes for stability. However, the government and the ruling party are obsessed with reform ideology that is not helpful for the people’s livelihood. The National Assembly spends days of sessions bickering and makes the people depressed. According to a foreign institute, the happiness scale of the Korean people ranks lower than average.

The longest way around is the shortest way. Life and survival are the logical ground for the bases of human rights. On the premise of one’s right to survive, personal freedom and the dignity of human life can be guaranteed. Politics that does not care for people cannot be justified on any account. Without the survival of the people, reform is no more than meaningless.