Constitutional Court of Korea Declares Korean Dictator’s Martial Law Decrees Unconstitutional

The New York Times has an interesting article written by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Choe Sang-Hun concerning the decision of the Constitutional Court of Korea in declaring unanimously three emergency decrees by the Park Chung-Hee Administration unconstitutional.  The full article may be found at: Court Says South Korean Dictator, Father of Current President, Violated Constitution.

The Constitutional Court opened the case, which deals with what human rights groups have called one of the darkest periods in South Korea’s modern history, after six people filed a petition. They include a 72-year-old man named Oh Jong-sang, who was tortured and served three years in prison under the decrees. His crime was criticizing Mr. Park during a conversation with a high school girl on a bus in 1974.

Mr. Park seized power in a military coup in 1961 and ruled until his assassination by his disgruntled spy chief in 1979. Public discontent peaked when he declared martial law in 1972, amid spreading student protests, and pushed through the so-called yushin, or revitalization, Constitution, which effectively made him president for life. It replaced direct presidential election with voting by a group of pro-government representatives. It also gave Mr. Park the right to disband Parliament and issue emergency decrees.
Ms. Park owed her December election in large part to her father’s continuing popularity among conservatives. But in September, under pressure from families who had lost relatives to Mr. Park’s abuses, she acknowledged that some events that took place during his rule, including the coup that brought him to power, had “damaged the values of the Constitution.”

Sean Hayes may be contacted at:

Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.

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