Hall of Violence
Parliamentary Democracy Faces Grave Crisis
``Violence begets violence.'' This simple sentence is not limited to war, terrorism, crimes and other disputes. In South Korea, violence has succeeded in finding its way into the National Assembly. It is a shock and pity that lawmakers have turned the ``Hall of Democracy'' ainto an arena for violence.
No one can deny that the Assembly has already become the ``Hall of Shame'' since legislators of the governing and opposition parties are only engrossed in partisan struggles at the sacrifice of public interest. They did not stop there and have finally transformed the Assembly into the ``Hall of Violence.''
The legislature is one of the three pillars of a democracy, including the executive and the judiciary. It goes without saying that these three institutions are integral parts of the democratic system of checks and balances. In particular, the legislature is an important institution as its members are popularly elected. Lawmakers represent voters in their respective constituencies. They are mandated to make laws to protect the rights of voters and the national interest.
What's certain is that Assemblymen are not entitled to ignore the laws they have legislated. The rule of law is indispensable to democracy. But what happens if legislators refuse to abide by these laws and resort to the law of the jungle?
It's nonsense for the people to expect the violence-ridden National Assembly to contribute to the development of the nation's democracy, and truly regrettable that lawmakers have tried to toll the death knell of parliamentary democracy. The recent violence began Dec. 18, when lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) mobilized a sledgehammer, crowbars and chisels to knock down the doors of a blocked National Assembly room to prevent the ratification of a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) at the committee level.
The mob-like legislators also used fists and kicks to stop members of the governing Grand National Party (GNP) from entering the Assembly's main hall to pass the FTA and more than 80 pending bills. The acts became a topic of international derision. It is a national shame that the world's 13th largest economy has backpedaled on its democratic achievements.
The scenes of violence were presented again in the Assembly Sunday, the 90th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement. Rep. Cha Myeong-jin of the GNP suffered a fracture to his left arm in a scuffle with DP officials who were protesting with their lawmakers against the governing party's move to railroad pending bills. Rep. Suh Gab-won of the DP also sustained an injury to his waist when he was pushed by GNP members.
On Feb. 27, a handful of activists attacked Rep. Chun Yu-ok of the GNP in the Assembly building, punching her about the head, scratching her face and poking her in the eye. Violence cannot be justified under any circumstances. As the prosecution pointed out, the attack on Chun was in defiance of democracy.
It is urgent that lawmakers spare no efforts to get the National Assembly back on track and revive the crippled parliamentary democracy. They should learn how to hold dialog and make compromise to put an end to violence and better reflect the people's aspirations.