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Primary Plan Unconstitutional: Expert

Posted October. 16, 2006 03:09,   


In February 2003, President Roh Moo-hyun came to office with a slogan, “People’s President,” seeking a participatory democracy, and called his government to become a participatory government. To realize this initiative, Roh established the Presidential Chief Secretariat for People’s Participation and encouraged civic groups and academia to participate in politics by setting up many kinds of committees.

However, this participatory democracy that has been advocated by Roh administration for more than three and half years is harshly criticized, rather than commended, by jurists now.

The Korean Public Law Association, headed by Sung Nak-in, professor of law at Seoul National University, held a symposium last Saturday, the “Legal Evaluation of Participatory Democracy,” in which experts agreed that, “Even though several positive attempts were noticed, the Roh administration failed to draw people’s real participation of politics.”

Lee Gye-soo, professor of law at Konkuk University, indicated during his presentation on ‘Reality and Ideal of Participatory Democracy’ that decision-making process in which expert groups’ influence increases and political parties’ position is weakened doesn’t mean the extension of democratic participation. This is a kind of illusion.

Lee also argued, “Even though the current government aims to reflect the voices of all people that, it believes, can be incarnated by people’s direct request to political society, such as political parties, governments, and parliaments, it is very ideal because it is not individuals, but organizations, who have the power to push political society to do what they want,” adding, “Thus, political focus on individual should shift to organizations.”

In addition to this, some experts stressed that the current government should embrace all kinds of political groups, including conservative blocs, to realize a successful participatory democracy.

Kim Gwang-soo, professor of law at Myongji University, said, “Contrary to its initial slogan, the current government gains little people’s support and participation,” adding, “There are many kinds of power groups in the Korean society, which were formed through democratization, modernization, and globalizations. Nevertheless, Roh administration didn’t equally consider their influences. This is a major cause of the contrary outcome now.”

Meanwhile, Lee Ki-woo, professor of social welfare at Inha University, stressed during his presentation on ‘Legal Experiment on Participatory Democracy and its Merits and Demerits, that, “The recent move of the ruling Uri Party to adopt an open primary is nothing but a surrender of the political party’s responsibility. Besides, it violates the constitution.”

Lee also said, “Even though open primary has advantages that help stop bureaucratic party activities, election corruption, and the like, it also cause disadvantages such as identity crisis that undermines political activities based on responsibility to nations.”

Meanwhile, in regard to committee politics, Lee criticized, “Because of the current government’s policy to increase political participation of experts and civic activists by establishing national committees, the original role of civil society that watches the political activities has been seriously weakened.” This means that because of the leakage of manpower in civil society with many activists moving to political sphere, the current civil society has a hard time in carrying out its role in society.

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