Recently, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona virus (MERS) hit Korea, so countries all over the world were watching wide-eyed to how Korea was dealing with the problem. Although there were strong objections about the government’s inappropriate initial response, it seems as though MERS is beginning to fade. However, MERS produced a crop of social problems like the 'MERS outcast.’ The government issued mandatory home quarantine measures to any family who had a member diagnosed with MERS in order to prevent the spread of MERS, but such government measures lead to the social stigma of becoming isolated persons. It made it hard for these people to return to everyday life even after the 14 days incubation period to ensure that there was no chance of carrying the germ or contagion. The Sookmyung Times asked Sookmyung Women's University students whether the state can infringe upon personal liberties in the name of individual safety.
- Debate Topic -
Can the state infringe upon personal liberties in the name of individual safety?
Department of Statistics '15
I agree with what the government do in order to protect its citizens. Firstly, the measure protected our nation, which is the duty of our government under the constitution. The constitution is the highest law in Korea and it cannot be changed on demand or by other laws. Korean offers its citizens fundamental human rights so that they can enjoy freedom. It is natural for a country to protect its citizens, so I think freedom should be suppressed for the greater good. However, it will cause conflicts within the country, but it ensures the public’s safety. Also I think the most important thing is the safety and health of its citizens. People can enjoy life when they are safe and healthy. Hence, safety is more important than individual freedom at times. Also, it is very difficult to ensure every individual’s personal freedom because the government has to govern many people. Freedom under the air of danger is not true freedom, so the measure to suppress some individuals is warranted. Secondly, the government needs to represent the majority to lead the nation well. To do so, our government has to aim at protecting all people’s safety. If people are anxious about their security—personal or national—the state will lose the support of its people. Safety leads to security of the country. Also, a country needs the backing of its people to fulfill its responsibilities. A good country has good citizens, and good citizens make a good country. Thirdly, a nation can detect risks that individuals cannot detect. For example, a responsible government will prevent travel to countries that are at war and this measure by the government should not be overlooked by the nation's citizens. Also, governments prevent people from living in buildings that are weak old, which is another issues that should not be overlooked by citizens. A country needs to strive to maintain its national well-being through management and control. In conclusion, I believe the government’s policy of suppressing personal freedom for the greater good and protection of our nation is correct and also a requirement under the constitution. Indeed the government must keep the trust and support of its people, but it must also risk and deals with such risks to ensure the safety and health of its peoples.
Department of English '15
I don’t agree with the government’s policy of infringing upon the rights of people merely in the name of protecting the nation. First of all, looking at the ‘Social Contract’ theory by Rousseau, Hobbes, and Locke in the 1800s, great thinkers insisted on a government that exists for safety of its citizens. It was said that “It’s because of our nature to be selfish and to be greedy for our benefit. Therefore, we need a system of governmental rule to secure our safety.” As the theory clearly highlights, there are three reasons a government doesn’t have right to interfere in its citizens lives. Basically, it is a breach of privacy. Everyone is concerned about his or her personal health and safety, which is something that individual people can solve. For instance, in regards to MERS, the government forced suspicious virus carriers to stay at home, but it never checked in on them or did any sort of accurate medical check. The government refused to test them due to a lack of labor force. Secondly, our political system separates its powers into three categories: administrative, legislative, and judicial. The purpose for this separation is to disperse power so that no institution may abuse its power on innocent people. If we allow the government to expand its power over the public, our rights as citizens are unprotected. Thirdly, when we give the government too much power to restrict basic human rights, the result is regression of democracy. We entrust power to the government to secure our safety, but we do not give it power to control our basic human rights. For example, South Korea has let Park Junghee, former president, control the country. He constantly infringed upon citizens’ rights and eventually established a dictatorial government. It was the government who was responsible for the wide spread MERS outbreak, not individual citizens. Citizens allow the government to ensure national security, but not by infringing upon basic human rights. The government should not have quarantined suspicious virus carriers, but have provided proper check-ups and offered medication if necessary. In short, the government must never interrupt our rights for any reason. The government exists to help us, not control us.