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Is this the Level of Park Geun-hye’s Understanding of the ‘Rule of Law’?
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Saenuri Party emergency committee chairwoman Park Geun-hye said yesterday that if the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation had gone against the law, it would have been finished long ago.

This was a response to a question from a panelist at an invitational debate at the Gwanhun Club, a gathering of veteran journalists. The panelist had asked Park’s opinion about opposition claims that the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation was a “stolen good.”

We were taken aback by both Park’s uncharacteristic use of the word “finished” and the uncharacteristic frown that crossed her face.

Moreover, given that a court recently acknowledged that the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation was a “forced donation,” Park’s response causes us to hold fundamental doubts about her understanding of the “rule of law.”

Not long ago, a court ruled in a stock transfer suit against the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation and the state, raised by the family of the founder of the Bu-il Scholarship, that the shares had been donated by coercion, even if it would be difficult to transfer the shares back due to the expiry of the statute of limitations.

The court nevertheless accepted a petition for an injunction against the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation that forbids it from selling Busan Ilbo stock.

The court added that the Bu-il Scholarship side may demand that the stock be returned if a stock donation contract with the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation does not exist or is annulled.

This runs along the same lines as the 2005 announcement by a National Intelligence Service truth committee that the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation was created when the Korea Central Intelligence Agency forced Busan businessman Kim Ji-tae to donate his assets.

What we note is the attitude in Park’s response, which is far from the legal sense of the public.

During the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2005, when Park was chairwoman of the Grand National Party, she sidestepped the issue with political arguments, namely that the NIS truth commission announcement at the time was an attempt to besmear her.

Now, however, she is the chairwoman of the emergency committee of the Saenuri Party, the ruling party. It is highly significant that a court has recognized the illegality in the course of founding the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation despite the change in the political situation.

Yet Park still continues to brush off the issue, claiming that it’s the facts that count. This is an unconvincing, evasive attitude. The important values that constitute democracy are freedom and equality, and one of the bases of equality is equality before the law.

Courts establish that basis, and this is the reason we call courts the final bastion. If Park interprets even court judgments different in accordance with his own interests, rule of law has no place to stand.

Former Environment Minister Yoon Yeo-joon has pointed out that Park frequently shows that she has not internalized a democratic lifestyle. Yoon said it’s a big mistake to think that with democracy, all you need is a system, and that democracy should be a social lifestyle and a way of running the nation and politics.

It’s a criticism we come to agree with even more as we watch Park’s response to the Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation. This does not seem unrelated to Park’s limitation, namely, that she is unable to acknowledge the mistakes of her father, Park Chung-hee.

This is the reason we worry about Park’s understanding of “rule of law” as a top contender for president.

(Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News. March 8, 2012)

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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