firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
A violent parliament: the people have never authorized violence
Democracy derived from the belief that human is a rational being.
Democracy, a mainstream political tradition, dates from the ancient Greece. Aristotle defined it as a way of "ruling and being ruled in turn." The ancient Greece was not a representative democracy but a direct democracy in the form of "boule," "ekklesia," and "dikasteria" where the citizens gathered to debate and discuss various issues and policies.
The democratic system, a politics of debate and discussion, derives from a belief that human is essentially a rational being. The Roman Senate, for example, was a place for aristocrats to govern the nation through endless debates. Cicero's famous speeches about Catlina and Phillipos are still often-cited even now. Those speeches have demonstrated the power of rhetoric and oratory over centuries.
Those orations are from expectation about and firm belief in human being's "logos," which means words. It was a tradition of the ancient Greece to realize logos through words and persuasion, which was handed down to the Romans. The Roman word of "oratio" meaning oration derived from "ratio" or reason.
The tradition of identifying reason with word or persuation has been passed onto to the modern democracy. The parliament, the symbol of deliberative democracy, exists for debating and discussing. Its sole reliance on words makes the parliament the zenith of delicacy and dignity. The lofty cause produces a practice in the parliaments that each member calls "honourable congressman."
Parliament is the sanctuary of the people''s will that never allows violence
The latest violent acts in our National Assembl are a clear offense against the people's mandate and the tradition of democracy. The savagery is an apparent infringement on the reason, the kernel of the parliamentary democracy. The parliament is usually regarded by the press as a place for interaction between the ruling party and the opposition parties. But what's more important is the relationship between the legislative body and the people. In other words, regardless of whether the ruling party reaches an agreement with the opposition parties, the voters, with their eyes wide open, make constant evaluation and judgement over the lawmakers' activities. Therefore, it's highly misleading belief that a disagreement can invite fistfights or scuffles and only a mutual agreement can ensure the proper functioning of the parliament. What an ignorant and foolhardy act if the lawmakers shake their hands with smiles once they reach a dramatic agreement after fierce physical fights like gangsters.
The occurrence of violence ipso facto rang a knell of the democracy, regardless of the fact that they have fought over bills. The big bell of Boshingak tolled on the New Year's eve when the parliament was in a standoff. How should we interpret the watch-night bell? Was it a traditional bell to say goodbye to old things and accept the new ones? Or was it a mere regret?
Neither one was true. It was a knell to the parliamentary democracy of our National Assembly where violent acts lasted even with the New Year coming and it was a funeral bell to herald the death of the representative democracy. It's really detestable to see the lawmakers going abroad for golf as if they did something impossible after reaching an agreement, which was nothing but a temporary ceasefire.
Parliament is the sanctuary of the people''s will that never allows violence. In this sense, it's a divine place. A fight occasionally occurs in the market between merchants or between a merchant and a customer. Sometimes drunk people are engaged in small or big fights in subways or bars. Baseball players or soccer players are embroiled into a group fight from time to time. But we don't claim with extreme despair that it's the end of the market, bars or sports games. We can understand, although not sympathizing, that some young and hot-blooded players are too much engrossed in victory to control their emotion and accidently encounter a fight. We also understand that some people, too drunk to talk and stand on their feet, get involved in a quarrel and then a fistfight. It's meaningless to argue about the behaviour of those who have lost their reason.
But what if a violence or fight occurs in charge? Nobody would understand it, whatever the cause. It's a holy place for people to confess their sins before the absolute being of the God and ask for forgiveness. It's so sacred that the police even cannot arrest a criminal hiding in church. A violent act in such a holy place is itself blasphemy.
A violent parliament is blasphemy against the people and tyranny of the minority
Then what about the parliament? The parliament is a gathering of those who represent the people. It's a place where the elected representatives with different interests and opinions make decisions through debates and discussions and create laws and policies. Therefore, violence is unacceptable and even a violent language is now allowed. The guards in the parliament are for preventing the ordinary citizens from invading and interrupting the assembly, not for maintaining order among lawmakers. Each lawmaker is a legislative body. A case of violent there is nothing but a blasphemy. It's a flat contradiction that the lawmakers have a debate and discussion in late-night TV programs while coming to fistcuffs at the National Assembly building. Is the National Assembly less sacred and solemn than a debate TV program?
If "sacrilege" is too strong for the secular democratic society, a "blasphemy against the people" can be better expression. How come the elites, those elected by the people to discuss and deliberate laws and policies seriously, exercise violence like gangsters and use hammers and hacksaws like carpenters? It's a regression of the democracy. How can a violent parliament talk about democracy, the constitution, the rule of law, and immunity?
The parliament is in essential a place where the political parties with different interests and positions encounter each other. What if the politicians cannot narrow their differences so that the conflict and confrontation does not end? A unanimous decision is desirable but what if the unanimity is hard to achieve? Then the second best solution is a majority decision. This does not mean the tyranny of the majority. The minority can defend the right of the few under some circumstances. Even so, they should do it in a "defensive" manner. If they push for the minority's will over every issue "aggressively," it can become the tyranny of the minority.
After pointing out the basic principles, I feel sorrow and shame as it's the logic that the Democratic Party, now a minority party who masterminded the latest parliamentary disorder, repeated all the time as the ruling party under the past government of President Roh Moo-hyun. Given their quick changing logics in line with their positions, it's pretty likely that they would claim the legitimacy of the majority rule when they win the election next time.
If the politicians fail to reach an agreement, they should agree to disagree. An agreement can be also made over disagreement. An agreed divorce is a typical example. Since the minority party has became a minority because they failed to gain much confidence from the people, they should strive to win the voters back with full dedication to their jobs and push hard to rewrite the flawed laws if they become the majority. How come they have lost their minds as if it's the end of the world only because their wills cannot come true right now?
There is a way for lawmakers to make a graceful protest. One is filibuster, a long slow speech made to use up time so that a vote cannot be taken and a law cannot be passed. A famous British politician stood at the podium for 48 hours while eating only eggs. Some Korean politicians employed the method of hindrance. With the filibuster inhibited by the limitation on the duration of the speech, politicians can resort to other ways to protest, such as fast, hair cutting, or resignation. It's a very strong protest but a peaceful action, acceptable not to defame the National Assembly. Our lawmakers are not considering such a dignified way of protesting but mimicking a gladiator fighting with beasts in the Roman Empire. It's apparently a blasphemy against the people. When our National Assembly fell to a boxing ring or a Roman amphitheatre?
Violence by lawmakers should not be forgiven.
The violence already occurred could not be forgiven, regardless of the fact that the politicians stroke a deal later. A violent parliament is similar to a violent family. Once the members get used to violence, nobody knows how far they might go. A violent family starts with a slap but can escalate into murder. It can be the case for the National Assembly. The hammers and hacksaws can escalate into baseball bats and knifes. This is how violence is reproduced in an enlarged scale. What's shocking in the latest incident is that the lawmakers, who usually staged sit-in strikes, used a variety of weapons this time. From now on, a political party may have to hire carpenters with hammers and electricians with electric saws.
We should not forgive this act of violence and hold them accountable. A system should be introduced to penalize irresponsible and law-breaking politicians, such as the people's right to ask for the summoning of lawmakers. We cannot solely rely on the decision by the parliamentary ethics commission. We have thrown many past nasty scandals at the National Assembly into the Lethe, the river of oblivion. The politicians fiercely fought as if it were a matter of life and death and then cancelled legal actions and even complemented each other with smiles after the ruling and opposition parties reached a compromise. It's really absurd that even a cow would laugh and all the people have been ridiculed. We cannot forgive them this time. It's not a case of violence by gangsters or sportsmen but by lawmakers. Any kind of violence cannot be allowed for the legislators.
This brutality is well beyond the people's tolerance. Rather than throwing the case into the Lethe but reviving it through the "aletheia" or the truth in Greek, we have to investigate it and convict whoever responsible. The people need to exercise their legitimate right as a mater of the direct democracy in order to correct the violence of the representative democracy.
Oh, the National Assembly! Do you know yourself? Do you see you have lost all the dignity and respect like a "naked king"?
Park Hyo-jong ( Professor at Seoul National University )