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[Editorial] School, Newspaper Bills Are Now in Court’s Hands

[Editorial] School, Newspaper Bills Are Now in Court’s Hands

Posted December. 29, 2005 03:01,   


President Roh is scheduled to announce the revised private school law today, defying requests from a group of private schools to exercise the presidential veto.

Because the ruling party has the majority in parliament, the only possible way now to nullify the law’s “poison pills” is to bring the law before the Constitutional Court.

The revised private school law has its share of unconstitutional poison pills. Indeed legal counsels to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development have pointed out the illegality of the so-called open trusteeship system and the clause banning employment of relatives of the chairman of the board as the principal. The law’s infringement on the autonomy of private schools doesn’t go away, only by exempting one more director from the open trusteeship system and giving schools an option to recommend multiple candidates. Also, it is naïve to believe that the enforcement ordinance can provide a way to solve all problems with the law.

The petition pertaining to the newspaper law filed by Dong-A Ilbo in March is still pending in the Constitutional Court. The newspaper law and the media arbitration law are highly likely to gravely suppress the freedom of press and undermine the media’s ability to keep the power in check. The newspaper law’s major clauses are unconstitutional, raising chances that the whole law will be ruled unconstitutional.

The ruling party has been behind the legislation of unconstitutional laws such as the revised private school law and the newspaper law since it secured the majority in parliament last year. The Constitutional Court is the only judiciary institution that can rein in the ruling party’s drive to enact more legislation undermining the values and ideas of the Constitution. Therefore, Koreans are pinning high hopes on the ruling of the Constitutional Court. However, it is expected to be difficult to meet the quorum (six) to rule it unconstitutional, because two out of nine judges who participated in the ruling of the special law on a new administrative capital have been replaced.

Under the constitution, judges are independent from the person who has the appointive powers from the moment they are appointed as judges. They are required to make decisions strictly based on the spirit and clauses of the constitution, regardless of political situations and tenure of the incumbent administration.

The constitutional court law stipulates that the decision shall be made within six months from the date a petition is filed. The Constitutional Court should accelerate its deliberation to prevent widespread confusion and negative fallout caused by enforcement of the unconstitutional law. We are hopeful that the Constitutional Court would forestall a national setback, by reaching a decision upholding the values of liberal democracy, market economy, personal autonomy and the freedom of press.