When 'fitting in' precedes quest for justice

PHOTO: The New Paper

Many scientists and psychologists have pointed out that our innate desire to "fit in" with others as human beings -- our evolution demands we belong to the tribe -- has been the major driving force behind our civilisation. But it was also cited as a major factor causing human atrocities, including massacres and bullying.

What do we do when someone we love, or someone who belongs to our family or community, causes harm to the lives of strangers?

Such questions entered my mind as the congresswomen of the ruling Saenuri Party have been collectively silent over the rape allegations against their fellow party lawmaker Sim Hag-bong this week.

Further, it led to questions over whether it was unfair to demand politicians to fight against this particular human nature in such a case of an alleged crime, leastwise an ethical lapse.

Sim is facing sex crime allegations made by a female insurance planner in her 40s, who first claimed that the lawmaker raped her in a hotel room in Daegu. While Sim admitted to having had intercourse during business hours, he claimed it was consensual.

The alleged victim later recanted her testimony saying that she had "not resisted as forcefully as she could have," prompting speculation of an attempt on Sim's part to cover up the case. As public outcry grew against the police for dropping the case, the prosecution announced Wednesday it would reinvestigate the claims.

The female politicians of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy have been taking to the podium, releasing statements calling for Sim's resignation from his lawmaker's seat.

While even some Saenuri Party members have voiced no tolerance toward the allegation, absent from the whole scene were the female members of party, who were previously extremely vocal against sex crime allegations among politicians of other parties.

One of the silent Saenuri congresswomen is the current Gender Equality Minister Kim Hee-jung.

It is not the first time they remained silent over sex crime allegations against their allied male politicians.

The women lawmakers made no public statements when Park Hee-tae, a former National Assembly speaker, faced sexual assault allegations made by a 23-year-old female caddie working at a golf club last year.

Some may say staying silent is not an act of unfairness. But as Desmond Tutu famously pointed out, when one is neutral in situations of injustice, he or she has chosen the side of the oppressor.

As human nature, we want to fit in with the tribe we belong to. Yet, lawmakers are asked to make themselves an exception, as their duty is to be involved with the lives of others -- strangers who do not belong to their family or their community. Their job is to work beyond their self-interests.

In this case, the female members of the conservative party can be seen as particularly cowardly for keeping mum on issues that otherwise would have taken centre stage in their privileged platform of gender equality and female-related policies.

It's impossible for them to not realise the seriousness of the Sim Hag-bong's case and the allegations made against him, although everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

To have the intellect to realise what's going on but lack the ethics to care and speak out on the concerns is an act of injustice on the lawmakers' part. Their job is not to care for their fellow lawmakers, but to serve the public -- by recognising mistakes of our times and making efforts so they aren't repeated.