Institutions and national traits

History has proven repeatedly that democratic political institutions where citizens elect government officials to represent themselves and the economy and is run on free market principles is the most successful political institution. Although democracy is not without error, many scholars agree that no other political institution is superior.

The world was astounded when the U.S. Constitution was enacted in Philadelphia on Sep. 17, 1787. Until then, monarchies ruled most countries in the world, and ultimate power in those countries resided with the King. Life and death was at the King’s mercy, and every property– from land down to birds in the sky–was considered the King’s property. The U.S., however, shook the world when the young state’s Constitution mandated to have its citizens elect the President every four years, created a legislative body where representatives were elected in proportion to the population. It also established a Supreme Court where judges decided punitive actions.

The democratic political system, which was adopted through great pain, came to have numerous problems with the passing of time–the most significant being the gap between the poor and the rich. Despite the emphasis on human equality, human capability is not equal, thus creating benefits for the wealthy while equal opportunities deteriorated, even below the conditions under the old monarchy. Against the ills of such conditions, socialism and communism sprung up to promote equality for all citizens. However, these political institutions are now extinct with North Korea existing as their remnant; but as we all know, North Korea is neither a socialist nor a communist state, but simply a poverty-stricken nation with hereditary rule passed on from father to son.

On the other hand, the U.S. has established itself as a firm democracy solidified through years of lawmaking that led to the creation and modification of national traits. Under the principle that everyone is equal under the eyes of the law, those who committed crimes were strictly punished regardless of their background, creating a hard-core legal society with little room for emotion. However, it would have been difficult to maintain order in such a large nation if the U.S. did not adhere firmly to its legal system. American society is an amalgamation of diverse races and ethnic backgrounds that requires strict enforcement of legal institutions to keep society in order.

Recently, a series of police incidents occurred when African-Americans were killed in the United States. Republicans sided with the police, emphasizing legal order and demanding punishment for those who broke the law. Democrats have long argued for rehabilitation of criminals to re-educate them so they can adjust back into society, and spent millions of dollars on crime prevention. Republicans, on the other hand, advocated increases in the number of police and penitentiary facilities, and spent millions penalizing criminals. Republicans went further in arguing for the death penalty and attempted to ratify bills that limited appeals from criminals on death row.

Korea, on the contrary, has developed into a legal society with a unique tradition where “bad” laws can be overlooked with an understanding that even laws have tears and sympathy. Such tradition has allowed the society to become abusive and lawless at times, allowing some absurd incidents to occur: police battery by citizens, too many cases of citizens’ demands for the democratically elected President’s resignation, and vandalism in the National Assembly.

I don’t oppose Korea’s tearful and sympathetic interpretation of the law. Furthermore, I don’t consider it entirely negative to be thoughtful and considerate toward unique individual circumstances surrounding criminal activity. However, I cannot tolerate the taking of the streets for violent demonstrations without following the legal procedure to voice citizen opinion. Such actions can only be seen as illegal activities that violate the democratic principle that acknowledges people are at the heart of a nation.

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