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[Editorial] Breeding Division while Emphasizing National Integration

[Editorial] Breeding Division while Emphasizing National Integration

Posted August. 16, 2005 03:09,   


President Roh Moo-hyun said in his congratulatory remarks for Korea’s Liberation day that “opening the era of national integration is a historical mission,” adding that correcting history and overcoming a divisive political structure and bipolarization are pressing issues that have to be dealt to resolve social division.

It is no surprise to see President Roh’s idea of finding the primary cause of social disintegration in the past. However, history is not something that can be divided into justice and injustice. Such divisive perspective of history only contributes to sharpening today’s conflicts. The two-and-a-half year reign of the administration proves that. In this regard, President Roh should have reflected on the “fault of today” which accelerated the division of our society before pointing out the “fault of history.” One might wonder if the majority of the public will sympathize with the relentless push for integration that lacks self-reflection.

The president’s way of correcting the wrongs in the past is also problematic. The president said, “Regarding crimes against human rights and the basic orders of democracy, we should either rule out the application of civil and criminal statute of limitations or enact laws to adjust them, if necessary.” However, a suspension or extension of a statute of limitations may again lead to controversy over constitutionality. Although the Constitutional Court ruled the “May 18 Act,” designed to punish former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, as constitutional last month because of the standard of “two-third majority,” more justices (five) considered it unconstitutional than constitutional (four).

The prevailing idea is that punishment of a crime in which an already-expired statute of limitations is extended is a retroactive law in the light of the principle of legality. Even if the method can avoid controversy over constitutionality, it still runs the risk of causing social and legal confusion by compromising the stability of the law.

In the same vein, the need to “overcome divisive political structure by resolving the regional structure” is agreeable, but it is not something that the government should relentlessly push forward. To that end, the administration should first comply with the “principles” before presenting the methodology of rearranging the constituency system. It is hard to resolve conflicts stemming from regionalism with the administration’s “no principle” in which it appoints those from the Youngnam region who failed in the election to important positions and is obsessed with the coalition that is far apart from public opinion.

It is hoped that President Roh will depart from actions that “seems to sow more seeds of division, shake legal stability further, and drive people to the past, even with emphasis on integration.” He should not stick to the “darkness of the past.” The urgent issue at hand is the people’s livelihoods and the economy.