On December 18, the Korean Constitutional Court for the first time in its history in a 8-1 vote decided to dissolve the far-left Unified Progressive Party (統合進步黨, 통합진보당 or 統進黨, 통진당). The decision was based on a provision in the Korean Constitution that allows for the dissolution of political parties if “the purposes or activities of a political party are contrary to the democratic basic order.” Other Western countries have similar provisions in their constitutions.* I will not wade into whether the decision or government’s effort to pursue the party was wise in this post. (There are plenty of resources elsewhere online for such a debate.) Instead, I would like to point to the use of Classical Chinese used by the justices. Law is still one of those fields where Hanja (漢字, 한자) is regularly used.
The Chief Justice Pak Hancheol (朴漢徹, 박한철, 1953-) in announcing the decision cited the Wei Zheng Chapter (爲政篇, 위정편) of the Analects (論語, 논어) and Record of Rites (禮記, 예기). He was appointed to the Court by President Park Geunhye (朴槿惠, 박근혜, 1952-).
“이 결정이 이념 논쟁을 종식시키는 계기가 되길 바란다. 사무사 무불경(思無邪 毋不敬)의 마음을 잃지 않기 위해 노력해왔다”
“I wish that this decision becomes an opportunity to put an end to fighting over ideology. I endeavored to not forget having a mind that ‘has no depraved thoughts and is always reverent.'”
“번드르한 말 속에서 본질을 간파해야 한다 (피음사돈 詖淫邪遁)… 아주 작은 싹을 보고도 사태의 흐름을 알고 사태의 실마리를 보고 그 결과를 알아야 한다(見微以知萌 見端以知末)…”
“We must penetrate through the smooth talk… We must look at the tiny seed to know how it will grow; we must look at the end of a thread to know its end.”
The lone dissenter Justice Kim Isu (金二洙, 김이수, 1953-) cited Record of the Grand Historian (史記, 사기) by Sima Qian (司馬 遷, 사마천, 145-86BC). He was appointed to the Constitutional Court by the former liberal Democratic party. (Interestingly, the other justice appointed by a liberal party and another justice appointed by concord between the ruling and opposition parties voted to dissolve the party.)
“바다는 작은 물줄기들을 마다하지 않기에 그 깊이를 더해간다(하해불택세류 고능취기심·河海不擇細流 故能就其深). 민주주의는 바다처럼 다양한 생각을 포용하는 것이 본질.”
“‘Because the rivers and seas do not refuse even the thinnest of flows, they can become even deeper.’ The essence of democracy is to embrace many ideas like the seas.”
* Although such a provision might seem abhorrent to most Americans’ tastes — after all, the Framers of the Constitution did not even consider the possibility of having multiple political parties –, many other countries widely considered to be democratic have similar provisions in their constitutions. For example, the German Constitution also allows its Federal Constitutional Court to dissolve political parties that “seek or impair or destroy the free democratic basic order.” Post-war Germany has also banned two political parties in its history. With the recent rise of extremist parties, other European countries have sought to use similar provisions.