Thursday, July 14, 2005

Yoon Pyung-joong on President Roh

My friend and old Hanshin University colleague Yoon Pyung-joong, an expert on political philosophy and a former student of Shin Il Chul, has recently published an article that has been translated from Korean for the English edition of the JoongAng Daily (July 11, 2005):

"The dilemmas of democracy"

The central "dilemma" that Yoon points to is a fundamental problem often noted:

"A democracy can blossom and draw strength from the dynamics of public participation, but it can also fall for the same reason."

Technically, this isn't a classic dilemma, for we're not presented with a choice between two, equally bad alternatives. The term "paradox" isn't quite correct either, though it comes to mind and is also used by Yoon:

"The paradox, in other words, is that the collapse of democracy can be hastened by the very public participation that is one of democracy's core ideas."

I think that rather than dilemma or paradox, the expression "inherent irony" might better get at what Yoon is thinking about.

At any rate, the full, practical impact of Yoon's article only becomes clear at the end:

"Though they have inherited the tradition and brilliant achievements of Korean democracy, the incompetent and self-righteous behavior of President Roh Moo-hyun and his 'participatory government' show the dilemma of democracy very clearly."

Yoon isn't suggesting that Koreans overthrow democracy, but he is implying the need for something to be "thrown over" the side of Korea's democratic ship of state.

Yoon's words are significant because they signal deep dissatisfaction with President Roh among some of those who were strong supporters early on. Yoon originally had high hopes for the Roh presidency, but these now appear to have been dashed against the rocks.

I just wish Yoon article had been a bit more specific about the instances of incompetence that he sees in the Roh administration.

2 Comments:

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Matt Gregg said...

I am not able to comment on the state of South Korean democracy. The issues that are raised with regard to the distinctions between democratic theory and practice, however, are a worthwhile subject of consideration for anyone concerned with how people govern themselves. An understanding of the limits of honorable and selfless behavior is a fundamental element of American democracy. The Jeffersonians felt that rural life would give rise to the values essential to a stable representative democracy. The prevailing design, however, is one of a commercial republic where the reputations of political actors could be known. Clearly a free press is critical to this design. It does not work perfectly, however. It is more accurate, as others have noted, to acknowledge democracy as the worst of systems of governance, except for all the others.

 
At 4:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yoon would likely agree with you since he states:

"Probably no one would deny that democracy is the best political system ever invented by mankind."

Of course, there are those who deny this, so he probably means that no reasonable person would seriously deny that democracy is the best system.

Jefferson probably considered the yeoman farmer inherently virtuous but the merchant as a potential sharpster.

That potential for dishonesty in a commercial republic makes a free press crucial to the success of democracy in such a system.

Korea's press is free but journalistic ethics could be higher -- judging by the standards of the local English-language newspapers here in Korea.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home