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최종편집 : 2024.04.22 월 19:31
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확대축소프린트
 Park Su-min
[Desk Column] Trampled Future: Authoritarianism Shadows
제 214 호    발행일 : 2024.03.11 
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  At the end of last year, reports emerged globally, indicating a threat to democracy. Intergovernmental surveillance agencies disclosed that over half of the world's nations were experiencing a decline in democracy, ranging from flawed elections to the curtailment of rights, including freedom of expression and assembly. Think tanks pointed out the deterioration of democratic guardrails such as elections, legislatures, and independent judiciaries, raising concerns about the erosion of the rule of law and accountability for politicians.
  Various factors have been cited by politicians worldwide as threats to democracy. French President Macron highlighted authoritarianism and rampant capitalism, while former South Korean President Moon Jae-in pointed to populism, extremism, inequality, polarization, hatred, and fake news. President Yoon Suk-yeol emphasized fake news and authoritarianism. The Taiwanese Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed concerns about the authoritarian expansion of China and Russia threatening democracy. Former U.S. President Trump and President Biden labeled each other as threats to democracy.
  Authoritarianism, commonly mentioned as a threat, is defined as the antithesis of democracy in The Economist’s Democracy Index. Therefore, behaviors indicative of authoritarianism should be guarded against in democratic societies. Authoritarianism encompasses attitudes and behaviors that seek to suppress others through power or blindly submit them to authority. It can manifest in various forms.
Authoritarianism operates to undermine the fundamental aspect of democracy, freedom of expression. It particularly targets protests and dissenting voices as its primary adversaries. In Feb, during the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) graduation ceremony, a student disguised as a graduate shouted at Yoon, demanding the cessation of tax cuts for the wealthy and the restoration of research and development budgets. Just then the student was forcibly silenced and removed by presidential security. Outside at the same time, a prospective candidate for the Progressive Party, a KAIST alumnus, was violently suppressed while campaigning in front of the university gate because he was near the president’s movement line. An unprecedented situation occurred where public power was exercised during an election campaign that was being conducted legally.
  Another concerning aspect is the disregard for the voices of civil society. Yoon has recently pushed for the extensive lifting of environmental regulations, military protection zone abolishment, and easing of agricultural land regulations in non-capital regions in the name of economic revitalization. Despite concerns raised by environmental organizations, civil society, and experts, these policies are being forcefully implemented. Even though the economic problems originated from the liquidity crisis caused by Gangwon-do's debt default, they are acting as if institutional regulations are the cause.
  The issue of budget cuts for research and development, as mentioned by the KAIST graduate, follows a similar pattern. Scientists voiced opposition and concern, and international scientific journals reported on Korea’s budget cuts. Experts criticized these policies as regressive. However, announcements of budget increases came only after significant cuts had already been made.
  Authoritarianism also tends to treat skepticism or rebellion against authority as disobedience. The bribery scandal involving the First Lady’s Dior bag sparked controversy domestically, but President Yoon framed it as a political conspiracy, avoiding reflection and commenting “There were some unfortunate aspects.” Ultimately, reports of the Dior bag scandal tarnished Korea’s image on the global stage.
  President Yoon previously stated that fake news and authoritarianism are threats to democracy. However, a closer look at distorted position statements and recurring authoritarian incidents linked to him raises significant concerns. Notably, the authoritarian tendencies associated with Yoon evoke memories of South Korea’s past under dictatorship. On March 7th, the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem) in Sweden labeled Korea as a country undergoing a transition from democracy to dictatorship in its democracy report. The historical cycle of dictatorship appears to be repeating itself, posing a significant challenge to maintaining democracy.
  German former Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in her retirement speech, emphasized that the vitality of democracy lies in critical debate and self-correction. She stated that democracy endures through constant understanding, balance, mutual respect, solidarity, and trust. Once again, South Korea is confronted with the challenge of dictatorship. It is crucial to raise our voices, resist, unite, and reclaim our democracy.
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