|Democratic Party of Korea Chairman Lee Hae-chan attends a party meeting at the National Assembly, Seoul, Friday. The party earlier filed a complaint with the prosecution against a professor for writing a column critical of the ruling bloc, but withdrew the move on Friday following criticism from the political circle and civic groups. Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has faced harsh criticism for trying to gag critics by filing a complaint with the prosecution against a professor and a local daily for writing a column critical of the ruling bloc.
It later withdrew the complaint, but condemnation continues that the "democratic" party is suppressing the freedom of expression ― a value which the liberal bloc has long fought for.
The Kyunghyang Shinmun carried a column by research professor Lim Mi-ri from Korea University's Center for Korean History on Jan. 28. In the column titled "Except the DPK," she denounced the ruling bloc for "being immersed in its own interests rather than people's desires" despite the fact that the Moon Jae-in administration was established through the massive public candlelit protests sparked by the corruption scandal of the previous government, going so far as to call itself the "candle-led government."
Lim suggested people not vote for the ruling party for the upcoming April 15 general election, so that politicians and parties would bear in mind that they should not forget their election promises after they take power. "So I propose people cast ballots for parties 'except the DPK.'"
After the column was published, the DPK requested for the prosecution to investigate the professor and the newspaper for violating the Public Official Election Act. It said she violated multiple regulations under the act by carrying out pre-electioneering.
|The hashtag that read "Except the DPK" posted by Korea University professor Lim Mi-ri on her Facebook. She was sued by the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) for writing a column suggesting people vote for other parties in the April 15 general election because the party has failed to serve the people. / Captured from Facebook|
"I hope the DPK will experience a crushing defeat, and hope this will help the country write the history of democracy properly."
Opposition parties have launched criticism toward the DPK.
"It is arrogant (for the DPK) to seek a complaint for election law violation over a column. If the powerful ruling party does not protect our freedom of expression and the people's right to know, who else has the power to?" minor opposition New Alternative Party spokesman Kim Jeong-hyun said in a statement, Thursday.
Political pundits and civic groups joined the criticism, posting hashtags like "Except the DPK," "We are Lim Mi-ri," and "You can sue me, too."
Such criticism even arose within the DPK.
Rep. Jung Sung-ho said on his Facebook, "Arrogance has destroyed great empires and heroes (through history). We need to listen to people's opinions carefully with a humble attitude. We have to acknowledge different values and accept various opinions."
Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who is leading the DPK's election strategy committee, also suggested the party leadership drop the complaint, Thursday.
Following the attacks from the inside and outside of the party, the DPK said Friday it withdrew the complaint. "We admit the complaint was an overreaction and express regret," the party said in a statement.
But it did not forget to cite the reasoning behind its actions, saying that Lim was a former member of former opposition presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo's think tank and that the party filed the complaint in the belief that the column had a political purpose beyond expression of an individual's opinion.