restricted access 10. The Park Chung Hee Era and the Genesis of Trans-Border Civil Society in East Asia
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10 The Park Chung Hee Era and the Genesis of Trans-Border Civil Society in East Asia Gavan McCormack People Power and the Making Of History The rapid maturing of South Korean civil society and democratic institutions following the “democratic revolution” of 1987 and the end of the cold war in 1989 has opened an intense debate on the nature and meaning of the Park Chung Hee (Pak Chŏnghŭi) era. Though the era survived in a modified form under the successor regimes to 1987, it now becomes almost an ancient, hotly contested past. As Zhou Enlai once reportedly observed of the French Revolution, 200 years is too short a time to reach a historical assessment. For the Park era, thirty is too short. In the 1960s and 1970s, relationships between states in East Asia were primarily determined by their location within the global structures of the cold war, and military governments, giving priority to anti-communism and ruthlessly crushing democratic movements, were installed and maintained under Washington’s sponsorship in Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea. It is sometimes said that the cold war ended in 1989 with the victory of the “free world” especially the United States. In East Asia it might better be seen to have ended with the defeat of “free world”-supported national security state regimes at the hands of the democratic resistance, or “people power,” in the Philippines with the overthrow of the Marcos regime in 1986, in the Republic of Korea with the overthrow of the Chun Doo Hwan (Chŏn Tuhwan) regime in 1987, and in Indonesia with the overthrow of Suharto in 1998. These interventions , which today would run a high risk of being labeled “terrorist,” forced drastic change in intra- and inter-state structures and put an end to regimes long sustained by Washington and Tokyo. Gavan McCormack 188 This chapter addresses the emergence during the Park era of “people power,” not so much the domestic, intra-Korean movements as the transborder , cross-nation civil society, in other words, the genesis and early stages of global civil society. In the present context of spreading global terror, both state and private, the task of promoting or facilitating spontaneous citizen action to advance a democratic agenda has never been more urgent. The Park regime, especially under the Yusin Constitution of October 1972, combined to a highly unusual degree, economic growth and dynamism with political repression. It was an early model of what was to become known as the “national security state.” While South Korea faced legitimate concerns over national security because of the continuing North-South confrontation, its national security state deployed its powers repeatedly and ruthlessly to maintain control and to crush any opposition, whether or not connected to North Korea. The legal frame for repression was one inherited from pre-war Japanese fascism, the so-called peace preservation system that had originated in Japan in 1925. Under the National Security Law, adopted in South Korea in 1948 and revised several times thereafter, “anti-state” activities, including anything that might be interpreted as offering aid, praise or encouragement, or any effort to confer or correspond with, anti-state groups, defined as those whose intention was to “conduct or direct infiltration of government or to cause national disturbances” were punishable by penalties including death.1 In practice, “anti-state” meant “North Korea,” and in practice, as James B. Palais wrote, police authorities were “allowed to arrest people on trumped-up charges with little legal justification, force confessions through the use of torture, and prosecute them on the charge of treason.”2 The poet Kim Chiha explained the operation of the security system this way: “In South Korea, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Jesus, the Buddha, anybody and everybody concerned with fundamental truth or essential reality would be a communist.”3 A key role in this state apparatus was played by the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), which diplomat and Harvard scholar, Gregory Henderson, speaking to a congressional committee in 1976, described as “a state within the state.” It was, he said, a “vast, shadowy world of an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 bureaucrats, intellectuals, agents, and thugs, often the real substance of South Korean rule for which the Korean government ministries and parties are frequently a slightly more respectable façade.” The The Park Chung Hee Era and the Genesis of Trans-Border Civil Society 189 KCIA played “a key role in virtually all government planning, North Korean affairs, international affairs, labor...


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