(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on March 13)
Silence is not golden
Former President Park Geun-hye returned home two days after the Constitutional Court's final ruling upholding her impeachment by the National Assembly for abuse of power. The people hoped she would make a statement expressing her respect for the top court's decision and a plea for national harmony amid the ongoing conflicts over her impeachment.
However, she chose to keep mum and stay in her house in southern Seoul without saying anything. In the meantime, three of her supporters were killed while trying to protest the court's ruling. Some journalists were injured in confrontations. And yet, the anti-impeachment group vows to continue their protests.
Park must take the lion's share of blame if more violence occurs. We understand her frustration at the court's unanimous 8-0 ruling in support of impeachment. She may still wonder why the court dragged her down from the throne even when she believes she did nothing wrong. But whether she accepts the ruling or not, she must yield to a ruling by the nation's top court.
Park was lawfully impeached by the legislature and sentenced to step down after a three-month impeachment trial. A president must take responsibility for reneging on duties as head of state. She must accept the ruling no matter how disappointing it may be. She must take a step further to appeal to her supporters to restrain from vehement protests against the ruling.
We have a good precedent. In the 2000 U.S. presidential race, Democratic candidate Al Gore respected the Supreme Court's ruling and congratulated his Republican rival George W. Bush for his victory despite all the controversy over the vote count in Florida. In his acceptance speech, he said, "Let there be no doubt. While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it." He then urged his voters to accept the results "for the sake of the unity of the people and the strength of our democracy." After his impeachment over the Watergate scandal in 1974, President Richard Nixon also chose to resign to avoid national division.
In an earlier ruling by the Constitutional Court on the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, then-opposition lawmaker Park Geun-hye urged the people to humbly accept the court's decision whether they supported his impeachment or not. Park knows very well that her statement also applies to herself.