In a democratic society there is nothing more important than a healthy expression of one's ideas and right for it to function properly. In addition, there would be no doubt in the fact that demonstrations and protests are one of key methods of and for expressing and exchanging ideas of different people. However, since there are countless people with countless ideas, attributes, and development, such demonstrations stretch out vastly in large areas and there should be no criteria in defining them as nothing more can be excepted than total chaos. Yet, in this case, legitimacy can provide solid criteria.
However, blatant acceptance of law does not guarantee absence of chaos and actions taken through fully legal process, and does not always guarantee the promotion of democracy or freedom of speech. Therefore, it is evident that people, while abiding by law, should make decisions individually and ascertain the context of actions of law and law itself. In the hopes of aiding people in this process INDIGO would like to present a recent event that was legal, yet undemocratic and ways people should think and act about such matters.
Dissolving of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP)
While Korea currently is a country where democracy is embraced as a position of basic ideology, she has not had a proud history when it comes to legal persecutions. After the foundation of Republic of Korea it has experienced 3 major dictators and methods of expressing ideas, such as demonstrations, had been legally limited through various undemocratic laws. However, one of the most recent incidents that legally demoted democracy would be the disorganization of the UPP. Although this incident happened within perfectly legal and constitutional boundaries, it is considered as a key incident that set back democracy in our country during the 21st century.
There is no doubt that the decision and actions achieved was through legal procedures. It is stated in our nation's constitution that if a party is thought to be against basic national democratic principles, the constitutional court is given freedom and right to make the decision as to whether it can be dissolved or not. However, this seemingly legal procedure holds a great threat of setting back democracy a few decades. This is due to the fact that contrary to what is stated in the law it's based on, it violates the basic principle of democracy. In order for a society to remain democratic and free, what it needs in basic is for it to guarantee the maximum amount of rights to express ideas for its citizens, as long as it not directly interfere with others’ rights. Thus, an expression of ideas, through politics and through processes of voting becomes a party. This being said, should a society remain democratic, it must not prohibit the formation or existence of a party unless it poses direct and immediate threats to other citizens’ lives and properties. Therefore, in this case, the government and constitutional court has failed to present plausible evidence and a basis for prosecution, which facilitated rash judgment. Also, the precedent it establishes holds a great and ominous threat. According to the constitutional court's ruling, should a party be deemed unconstitutional it is impossible for another party with the same basis of belief, not to mention same name, to be formed in the future. This greatly reduces freedom of speech by stating certain ideologies illegal and grants government too much control over its citizens.
What should people do?
Up to this point readers might be wondering what this has to do with demonstrations and protests. The answer would be: Everything. The incident mentioned above shows that not all actions taken by state or government is democratic, nor does it always help support people's rights. Its actions could be influenced by whoever is in power and what is necessary to protect their privileges. In the same context, the demonstrations and controversial laws mentioned in previous articles could be interpreted the same. It is evident that not everything that is legal is for a good purpose and not everything that is deemed illegal is bad. Then, with this knowledge what is the right way for people to react and what kind of attitude should people have? First and foremost, people should always bear in mind the fundamental ideas of democracy. As Abraham Lincoln had eloquently said, democracy is a form of government that is for the people, of the people and by the people. People and people's rights, in this case people's right of expressing themselves, are the subject of protection. A state has an absolute right to protect itself; however, when that protection expands into violating its people's rights in doing so, that protection becomes meaningless. Further, however legally solid it may be it becomes morally, ethically wrong. Throughout history, countless people have lost their lives to prove this simple fact and in honoring them this is an important fact that we must not forget. People have inalienable rights and they have empowered government so that it does its best to guarantee said rights.
Secondly, people should always be mindful that those who sleep on their rights can never be protected. Advancements in technology have enabled people to be more insightful and educated more than ever. Due to this, it means that should there be an undemocratic movement in action, it will be hard to go by unnoticed. However, a simple realization is not enough to make changes. It should always be in the mind of people that the free and democratic society we embrace today was achieved by those who knew and took action.
Rest assured that this is not a social manifesto claiming anarchy or chaos. Nor is the aim in this article to make people believe that they should not place trust in their legal system. Rather, this was composed in the hopes of reminding people that they have their rights and they should not fear exercising them. This is also to remind people that there have been, and always will be, those who strive to change undemocratic legal systems and legal persecutions, and just because they are deemed illegal, it is never wise to immediately consider them outlaws before taking a look inside their cause. A demonstration that is ongoing right now may be considered illegal by government, and may seem illegal and chaotic to the populace; however, there is no telling how history will mark these incidents. It would be wise to consider the situation mindfully and read the context in order to discern the situation with a learned and level head.
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