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[Editorial] Constitutional Court`s 20th Birthday

Posted September. 01, 2008 04:07,   


The Constitutional Court was founded in 1988 after a fierce and bloody battle for democracy in June 1987. The court today became an “adult” by turning 20, having significantly helped Koreans understand the Constitution and rooting it in their daily lives. The court has reviewed 15,000 cases, or three cases a day excluding holidays. Of the cases, 500 have been ruled unconstitutional. The rulings have contributed to improving the status and dignity of the Constitution, and public awareness of constitutional rights, and consolidated the foundation for rule of law. In a survey, Koreans cited the Constitutional Court as the most reliable and influential government institution in society.

Despite the court`s achievements, the country is far from the ideal espoused by the Constitution. The five months of protest against U.S. beef imports saw protests disparage the Constitution through songs and actions. Protesters damaged police vehicles and attacked officers in Seoul. Demonstrators frequently used violence in rallies and illegally blocked traffic by occupying roads. Other activists threatened companies advertising in the country`s three major dailies through an online campaign, mocking the underlying constitutional ideas of a free democracy, rule of law and a free market.

The administration and the legislature also deserve blame for mocking the Constitution. The administration has frequently set forth policies that go against the guiding doctrines of the Constitution just to increase convenience and efficiency. Former President Roh Moo-hyun forced through unconstitutional laws including those on private schools, newspapers, the new administrative capital and history, to name just a few. In addition, regulations governing the real estate market are faced with a constitutional challenge. The National Assembly is still dominated by partisan interests, churning out laws catering to special interests.

To upgrade the public`s awareness of the Constitution and government institutions, it seems necessary to incorporate constitutional principles in public education. The Constitution has become a normal part of everyday life for both the people and those in power. It is the high law of the land. Hence, citizens must comprehend and internalize the underlying principles of the Constitution. Otherwise, they cannot monitor and check deviation by government bodies and political power. This is an important agenda at an international symposium to mark the 20th anniversary of the Constitutional Court.