My political philosophy, summed up in one word, is freedom. The nation that we establish must be a nation of freedom. What is freedom? If, by freedom, we mean a state in which each individual lives his life absolutely in whichever way he sees fit, this is something only possible either before nations came into being or after, as Lenin would say, nations have withered away. For mankind, which lives its life under the confines of national governments, this kind of unconditional freedom does not exist. This is because nationhood, by its very nature, is a kind of a state of restraint bound by rules and regulations. What restrains us who live in nations is law. Whether in nations with freedom or in nations without freedom, the individual's life is constrained by national laws.
What distinguishes freedom from what is not freedom is from where the law originates that binds the individual's freedom. In free nations, the law springs forth from the people's free will. In nations without freedom, it comes from a certain individual or a class of individuals among the people. When a nation's laws are issued by a single individual, the nation is said to be a totalitarian or an autocratic state. When they are mode by a single class, this is called a class dictatorship or what is popularly known as fascism.
I do not desire that our nation become a nation ruled by a dictatorship. In a nation ruled by a dictatorship, everyone, except the class of people that form the dictatorship becomes a slave. Among types of dictatorship, the one that is to be feared the most is a class dictatorship based on a
certain ideology or philosophy. In dictatorships exercised by a sovereign or other individual dictators, the dictatorship can be toppled simply by removing from power that single individual. But, when a class organized by multiple individuals is the body of the dictatorship, it is exceedingly difficult to eliminate the dictatorship. This kind of dictatorship is very difficult to break except by applying the power of an organization greater than the dictatorship or by applying international pressure. The rule of yang-ban in our nation is also a type of class dictatorship, and this had continued for hundreds of years. The fascism of Italy and Germany's Nazism are instances of dictatorship known to everyone.
However, that which is to be feared the most among all forms of class dictatorship is the class dictatorship that is founded on philosophy. The class dictatorship that was exercised for hundreds of years in Joseon Dynasty Korea was founded on Confucianism (and, within Confucianism, on what is known as the Chu-tzu school of thought). This was a dictatorship that imposed its grip not only in the realm of politics but also in all other areas such as ideology, scholarship, social life, family life, and even individual life. Under this dictatorship, our people's culture withered away, and their energies wore out. Because schools of thought other than the Chu-tze school were not allowed to develop, the negative consequences of this extended into areas such as art, the economy and even industry.
In fact, the biggest reason for the decline of our nation and of our people's power has its roots in this type of dictatorship. This is because the class dictatorship of yang-ban effectively suppressed all development of our culture and our national power. No matter how great were the thoughts and the ideas that brewed in our people's minds, they were not allowed to be expressed and made known to the world unless the person with the ideas belonged to the ruling class or the ideas themselves were acceptable to the ruling class. As a result, how many branches of new ideas and new plans must have been stepped on and killed as they were about to sprout or even before they had an opportunity to germinate? One cannot feel more acutely the importance of the freedom of speech. Only in nations that have the freedom of speech can there be progress.
The Soviet-style democracy, what the communists now advocate, is the most rigorous among these types of dictatorship. It exercises in an extreme form all the characteristics of dictatorial rule. The communists believe in the theory of Marx as the ultimate truth. Marx had created this theory by combining Hegel's dialectic with Feuerbach's materialism and adding to this Adam Smith's theory of labor value. Backing this theory with the combined might of the communist party, the laws of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union's military and police forces, they purge by death anyone who comes even remotely close to criticizing any aspect of Marx' theory. This, indeed, is worse than the dictatorship of the yang-ban class in Chosun of former times.
If the rule of the communists spread to the entire world, all of humanity's thoughts would be unified under the single ideology of Marxism. Because Marxism is unfortunately a flawed theory, this would be the worst possible misfortune to befall humankind. That Hegel's dialectic, the basis for Marx' theory, is not the whole truth has been already proven by criticisms from many scholars. That the law of the physical universe is not dialectic is clear when considering the theories of all scientists such as Newton and Einstein.
Therefore, setting one theory as the standard and restraining people's thoughts is wrong in the same way that it is wrong to establish one religion as the state religion and force people to embrace it. On mountains, there sprout not just one type of tree, and, on the fields, there bud not just one type of flowers. Many kinds of trees grow together to form the beauty of a forest, and hundreds of different flowers mixed together bud to form the rich scenery of a spring field.
In the nation that we build, we should allow all religions -whether they be Confucianism, Buddhism or Christianity- to freely develop and all the great philosophies of mankind to be introduced so that they can freely blossom into flowers and bear fruit. Only a nation such as this can be rightly called a free nation. And, only in this kind of free nation will there originate the grandest and the highest culture of humanity.
I do not believe in its entirety Lao-tzu's philosophy of inaction. But, I do believe, when it comes to politics, in not applying too much artifice to what is given by nature. In general, a person cannot be omnipotent, and a theory cannot be flawless. Thus, although controlling the people by one individual's thoughts or by one academic theory may seem to bring about fast progress in the short term. This, however, eventually leads to a breakdown and brings about nothing other than violence and dialectical revolutions. Because each creature has an instinct that enables it to adapt itself to its environment and to preserve itself, the best way is to leave all creatures alone by themselves. Interfering often in the natural way of things results in more harm than good. It is definitely not good politics to interfere too much with the individual's life. people are neither soldiers in the military nor prisoners in jails. That it is extremely unnatural and dangerous to drag people along by orders of a single individual or of a few is all too well proven by the misfortunes that befell Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
Compared to these totalitarian states, the United States seems lacking in national unity, and its way of proceeding with its affairs appears to be slow. But, when considering the end result of all this, the United States exercises the most power in the world. This is an effect of that nation's democratic political system. This system works as follows. When some matter is under deliberation, there arise at first all manner of opinions held by all segments of the population. This seems too anarchic and unlikely that the opinions will ever be gathered into one. But, as the people discuss the matter from all points of view, the opinions gradually settle into several groups and eventually into two dominant camps. These, in turn, reach one conclusion by way of majority decision and become resolutions of the national legislature. When these, in turn, obtain the executive's approval, they become law, and,. in this manner, the will of tile people becomes decided and immobile.
In this fashion, democracy is a procedure or a method by which the will of the people is arrived at and not the content of such a will. In other words, freedom of speech, freedom of vote, and obedience to the majority's decision are the three pillars of democracy. National opinion - that is to say, the content of the people's will - is decided by discussions among the people as the need arises and is not fixed by any one individual or party's philosophical theory. This is the characteristic of the American style democracy. In other words, as long as the proper procedures defined by free debate, vote, and obedience to the majority opinion are followed, any law or policy based on any philosophy can be enacted. The only thing that restrains the outcome of following such procedures is the provisions of the Constitution itself.
However, unlike in totalitarian states, the Constitution itself is certainly not sacred and inviolable, given that it can be amended by following proper democratic procedures. This is why this system is called democratic, meaning that the people are the sovereign rulers of the nation. In this kind of nation, influencing the national opinion requires not influencing the opinions of a particular individual or party among the populace but, rather, the opinions of the entire people of that nation. Opinions of the people on a small scale are determined by the interplay of self-interests, and those on a large scale are determined by that people's national character, faith, and philosophy. Herein arises the importance of culture and education.
This is because the power of culture and education allows for the maintenance, reform and improvement of the national character and also determines to a large degree the direction of industry. Education is certainly not limited to teaching of vocational skills. What forms the foundation of education is a philosophy about the universe, life and politics. In other words, education of the people is teaching a set of vocational skills predicated on a set of philosophical foundations. Therefore, a good democratic political system begins in good education. A teaching of knowledge and skills that is not based on a sound philosophical foundation does harm to the recipient of that teaching and to his nation. The same applies to humanity as a whole. From what I have so far said, it should be possible to understand the main points of my political philosophy. In every way, I reject dictatorial rules and tendencies. I shout to our compatriots. Be careful lest we find ourselves under a dictatorship. I shout that we should build a nation in which each individual among our people enjoys freedom of speech to its fullest and things are done according to opinions of our entire people. That we should build a nation in which a philosophy held by one party or class does not coerce the opinions of the majority of the others. That we should build a nation in which the logic and theories of the present generation do not restrain the freedom of thought and faith of our future generations. A nation that is as wide as the earth and as free as the sky. Yet, a nation in which the virtues of love and orders of law are maintained just like laws of the physical universe. we should build this type of nation.
All this is not to say that I am an advocate of importing the American democratic system of government and adopting it in its entirety. Here, I was only making a judgment of the American democratic system founded on freedom of speech in comparison to the Soviet Union's totalitarian democracy. What I was saying was that, if I were to choose between the two, I would choose the one that is based on freedom of thought and speech.
I certainly am not of the opinion that the democratic system of government in the United States is the final, completed form of governance for humanity. Just as all aspects of life do, forms of political governance must also infinitely undergo a process of creative evolution. Thus, a nation such as ours which has experienced different forms of political organization in its five millennia of history must not only have flaws in its structure but also some sophisticated and highly-developed political institutions as well.
Even if we only look at the more recent Joseon Dynasty period. institutions such as Hong-moon-gwan, Sa-gan-won, and Sa-hun-boo are wonderful institutions which enabled opinions of the wise among the people to be reflected in national policies. Others such as the national civil service exam and Am-heng-eu-sa107 are also institutions that deserve to be studied. If we carefully consider our political institutions of the past, I believe that we will find many useful features. Creating, in this fashion, institutions that are uniquely suited to our nation by adopting what is good in other nations and selecting the good features of our system is definitely a way to enhance our cultural progress.