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[Opinion] Excess Power

Posted February. 04, 2006 04:35,   


When it comes to the definition of power, words like authority, control, and obedience immediately come to mind. Max Weber defined power as the ability to impose one’s will upon the behavior of other persons, even against their wishes. Bertrand Russell said, "Power is the ability to produce intended effects," which stimulated public debate on the subject. Either way, the definition is in line with the lexicon’s literal definition of power as “forcing someone into submission.”

Recently, President Roh Moo-hyun used the term, “excess power” in reference to prosecutors. According to his spokesperson, Kim Jong-min, Roh said, “Prosecutors can search politicians’ bank accounts and put my financial supporters in jail, but they are the only people to never come clean on their own finances.”

But Roh himself unilaterally endorsed Rhyu Si-min for the post of Health and Welfare minister, despite strong opposition from the ruling party. This drew sarcastic remarks that Roh is no better than a feudal lord.

Furthermore, pardoned ex-lawmaker Lee Sang-soo, who went to jail for illegal slush fund holdings during the 2002 presidential election, and allowed him to run for the National Assembly. After Lee was defeated, Roh appointed Lee to the post of labor minister.

Since the second half of last year, he has helped those whom he has ties with, regional affiliations with, and those who helped him earlier. No wonder critics say his personnel management is akin to giving out war spoils to his aides.

But Roh still says that he feels threatened by the “excess power” of prosecutors to the point where he cannot perform as head of the state, which is absurd rhetoric.

Anyone who is given power by the people, even a president, must not exploit or abuse that power to pardon and appoint. If he does so, he or she is exercising “excess power.” In contrast, it is not “excess power” when prosecutors arrest someone for illegally funding a president’s election campaign and violating laws; it is just enforcement. Regarding its “excess power” allegations, Cheong Wa Dae should look to itself.

Song Dae-keun, Editorial Writer, dksong@donga.com