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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Feb. 15)

09:06 February 15, 2020

The arrogance threshold

Under the Constitution of Korea, every citizen has the freedom of expression. Article 21 stipulates the freedom of press and publication as well as the freedom of assembly. Any form of censorship that can hamper free expression is outlawed.

The Democratic Party (DP) filed a criminal complaint against Korea University Professor Lim Mi-ri and a newspaper for carrying a critical column, which seriously undermines this democratic principle. The ruling party ended up withdrawing the complaint following a public backlash.

But it publicly questioned Lim's motivation for her column, claiming the professor used to work for Ahn Cheol-soo. It did not issue an apology or express regret for its wrongful act.

Such behavior raises questions about its eligibility as a ruling party — or any kind of political party with a duty to uphold constitutional values. The press is a forum for people of diverse voices and feelings to share their opinions on various social issues to advance democracy. The people's voice must be heard to prevent the powerful from dominating.

The DP should be ashamed for undermining constitutional values instead of defending freedom of the press and the people's right to express themselves in a democracy.

In her column titled "Boycott the DP," Lim criticized the ruling party for failing to live up to public expectations in the wake of the removal of former President Park Geun-hye, due to its determination to hold onto power beyond President Moon Jae-in's term. She does not name anyone or speak slanderously. The DP has manifested its arrogance for filing a criminal complaint against her for violating election laws.

The move could be seen as an attempt to silence any anti-government voices among intellectuals. Such censorship can only be thinkable in military or authoritarian regimes.

Members of the party demanded the withdrawal of the complaint and reminded the powers that be that the public was very sensitive about arrogance in power. The People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, one of the biggest supporters of the Moon government, issued a statement lambasting the party for impairing freedom of expression.

The right to free expression does not excuse slander or defamation on an individual or an organization. The DP must go back to its humble start when it promised unity and communication with the people.
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