Go to contents

[Opinion] The Government’s Right to Self-Defense.

Posted September. 09, 2005 07:43,   


Government, which means a body of people with the power to control the affairs of a country or state, originated from the word meaning “steering a ship.” The public distrusts those who are at the helm in all times and places. When you say “monopolizing authority,” the word “monopolizing” originated from the Discourses of Mencius. The book said monopolizing is an act of looking down over streets from a high platform and seeking gains. You always need to stay alert so that the government and officials who are in high places that the public doesn’t have access to are not monopolizing their authority.

James Reston, a legendary American columnist, sarcastically said, “A government is the only vessel that leaks from the top.” Tolstoy, a renowned Russian novelist, said, “A government is a group of people who commit violence toward the public.” Maybe they all tried to say that the government is such a dangerous entity that the public should keep a watchful eye on it. So, throughout the history of democracy, the mechanism of checks and balances on the government has been strengthened.

The media has played a critical role in keeping the government in check. And government officials who indulge in exclusive monopoly of power in a steering house have resisted. Richard Shenkman, an author, said that even Thomas Jefferson, who declared, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn`t hesitate to choose the latter,” failed to translate his own words into action. The former American president urged the government to bring charges against hostile papers on a charge of defamation after he took office. He showed what a Janus-faced power is all about.

Cheong Wa Dae mentioned the government’s right of self-defense against the media. It argued, “Refusing to provide news and support to the media, which distorts truth, is the government’s right of self-defense.” This is the second time the government asserted ‘the right of self-defense’ since the parliament public hearing on the Gwangju massacre in 1989. When the government called opening fire on citizens “the military’s right of self-defense,” it faced an enormous public backlash. The public asked, “Do you call killing citizens self-defense?”

Tigers don’t have a right of self-defense against rabbits. The government can’t assert a right of self-defense against the media which makes efforts to make sure that “rabbits” who are always deceived and who get the short end of the stick, for instance in the real estate market, are guaranteed the right to know. It is very ironic to hear “the participatory government” talking about “the government’s right of self-defense.” When will all the finger-pointing at the media end?

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com