Editorial; Political Accountability vs. Legal Liability

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), November 7, 1999 | Go to article overview

Editorial; Political Accountability vs. Legal Liability


The acrimonious partisan bickering and legislative paralysis in the wake of opposition Rep. Chung Hyung-keun's recent allegations against the Kim Dae-jung administration have many features no textbook on democracy has ever prescribed as desirable political conduct. A discourse on what constitutes sound political conduct in a parliamentary democracy appears imperative here to educate our deplorable politicians.

A brief description of their negative features will provide them with positive insight to improve their political activities and party politics. Korea in some important respects has all the undesirable features of a politically backward society. The party leader dominates his party. The leader and his political coteries can create a new party or dissolve it at their whim. There is no intra-party democracy. Party membership reflects not so much a commitment to the party's platform or ideology as his personal loyalty to the party leader. Personal factors or loyalties assume overwhelming importance in Korea's political vortex. Party platforms or policies are often no more than what a party leader's political expediences dictate them to fortify his personal power base. This ``personalization of the political process'' is the all-encompassing political feature and has proven cancerous to Korea's political development.

Thus, partisan quarrels and infighting usually turn into personal diatribes or character assassinations which invariably end up in a court action. The absurdity often involves an imposition of a court ruling on political matters that must require a political decision via due political process. The ultimate right of people's representatives to the making of political decisions in a representative democracy is thereby irreversibly delegated to the judiciary due to our legislators' lamentable abdication of their powers and responsibilities.

Another anomalous manifestation of our personalized politics is that there is little genuine inter-party debate or dialogue over policy differences. Instead, parties resort to incitement or sensationalism for partisan motivations. As a consequence, indiscriminate populist appeals appear to make more political impact than articulated political preferences of well-informed voters.

The recent political crisis over Rep. Chung's allegations against the ruling party and its administration has displayed all such disagreeable features. Surely, Chung and his political opponents are equally responsible for the present political impasse and legislative paralysis. Chung must be held accountable for the entire controversy if he has inflated his disclosure, or has been dishonest, about the administration's alleged media-control scenario. This could permanently ruin his political future.

If, on the other hand, his claims are proven authentic, this will irretrievably damage the administration and the ruling party. The culprit between the two should be determined by the facts of the case. An independent, parliamentary ad-hoc panel must be set up to discover all the relevant facts so as to dispel any suspicions over the matter. …

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