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468 From Autocratic Rule to Democracy in South Korea The Fourth Republic Prior to the early 1970s NorthKorea’seconomicandpoliticalinstitutions were more stable than those of its southern counterpart. Then, perhaps beginning in 1971, a dramatic reversal began in their relative economic and political strengths,andbytheearly1990sSouthKoreawasthemuchstrongerof thetwo. In the new environment accompanying the end of the Cold War, South Korea had a prosperous economy with fully democratic institutions, whereas North Korea was left behind economically and politically. On 17 October 1972 President Park Chung-hee staged a “palace coup d’état,” establishing a new and more autocratic regime, the Fourth Republic, under the so-called Yushin Constitution. That day Park declared a state of emergency, and imposed martial law on South Korea. He dissolved the National Assembly, closed universities throughout the country, and strictly censored the media. SoonParksetaboutrevisingtheconstitution,afterfirststudyingthe“generalissimo constitution” of Taiwan. In a national referendum, held on 21 November 1972, the South Korean electorate, under a frightened atmosphere, overwhelminglyapprovedthenewconstitution .TheYushinConstitutiongrantedthepresident emergency powers, empowered him to appoint one-third of the members 11 REVERSAL OF FORTUNES (1972–1992) Reversal of Fortunes 469 of the National Assembly, and guaranteed the president indefinite tenure in office. The all-powerful president was to be elected by a rubber-stamp electoral college, the National Conference for Unification, which had some 2,300 locally elected delegates. On 23 December 1972 Park was elected president, with a sixyear tenure, without one dissenting vote. Six years later, on 6 July 1978, he won anotherterminthesamemanner.Nowtheperiodof theFourthRepublic,more commonly referred to as the Yushin era, was fully under way. Park justified his unconstitutional move on the grounds of the necessity of the times. He argued that he established the new “Yushin system” to eliminate waste in national security programs and to cope with the rapidly changing international situation. Under a more efficient system, he would build national strengthcontinuously,promoteeconomicgrowth,strengthennationaldefense, and achieve reunification of the fatherland. He also claimed to be seeking a “Korean-style democracy,” one that was right for Korea’s situation and would solve its inherent problems. In fact, he did not “Koreanize” democracy; he only created an even more autocratic rule than was seen in the Third Republic. In accordance with the new constitution, the National Assembly elections wereheldon27February1973.TherulingDemocraticRepublicanPartygained 73 of 146 locally elected seats. The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) won 52 seats. Each of 73 local constituencies elected two assemblymen, and this election system continued into the Fifth Republic (1981–1988). Onethird of the total 219 seats were appointed by President Park, giving him a twothirds majority in the legislature. The National Assembly, along with its political party representation, could be dissolved by Park at any time. With all powers vested in the presidency and the president literally able to rule by decree, the Yushin regime was hardly challenged by other institutions. Park frequently used his power to completely control all political activity and the entire population, severely punishing any criticism, even of the Yushin Constitution itself. One of Park’s most important power bases was the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, which had the entire population under surveillance and routinely engaged in harassing the regime’s opponents. These power abuses caused a serious political crisis in relations with Japan on 8 August 1973, whenKCIA operativesabductedtheself-exiledoppositionleaderKimDae-jung from a hotel in Tokyo five days before he was to establish an anti-Park organization of overseas Koreans. The KCIA agents attempted to assassinate Kim by dumping him at sea, but last-minute U.S. diplomatic intervention forced Kim’s release, allowing him to return home. On 13 August 1973 Kim was put under 470 A History of Korea strict house arrest in Seoul, and the Park government, as one would expect, made no effort to identify or penalize his abductors.1 Although the Park regime claimed that the Yushin system was “Korean-style democracy,” many Koreans did not believe it was, and the Yushin system soon provoked intense opposition from many quarters, including the opposition parties, university students, and dissident intellectuals. The parliamentary opposition was neither strong nor effective, however, as the main opposition, the New Democratic Party, remained divided between the major factions of Kim Dae-jung, Kim Young-sam, and Yi Ch’ŏl-sŭng, and susceptible to government manipulation and intimidation. As a result of government maneuvers, on 25 May 1976 the Kim Young-sam faction and Yi Ch’ŏl-sŭng faction held separate national conventions and each used violence against the other. After Kim Dae-jung...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253000781
Related ISBN
9780253000248
MARC Record
OCLC
826449509
Pages
720
Launched on MUSE
2012-11-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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