[KS] Reminder: Statement from Professors in North America Concerned about Korean Democracy

Eugene Y. Park eugene.y.park at uci.edu
Tue Jun 9 15:45:46 EDT 2009

Dear all,

This is a last-minute reminder that a group of scholars concerned about
the present political situation in Korea have drafted a joint statement
for Korean democracy. The statement follows this message. If you'd like to
express your endorsement of the statement, by 6 PM, TUESDAY, JUNE 9 (US
Eastern Time), please send your name and institutional affiliation to:

Korea.Democracy at gmail.com.

Please disseminate this statement to whoever might be sharing similar
concerns about Korean democracy. A compiled list of signatures and the
joist statement will be sent to major Korean presses a few hours after
your endorsement deadline. So far we have about 200 signatories.

With deepest appreciation for your attention and participation,

On behalf of scholars in North America concerned about Korean democracy,


Eugene (Gene) Y. Park
Associate Professor
Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697 USA
Statement from Professors in North America Concerned about Korean Democracy

10 June 2009

The following represents the considered view of professors at colleges and
universities throughout North America whose thoughts are with Korea and
Korea's democracy. In light of recent developments in South Korea, we, the
undersigned, cannot but express grave concern. Nurtured by the toils and
sacrifice of many, democracy is a proud asset of the Korean people. The
world has watched as the Korean people have moved deliberately, with
determination and at human cost, from dictatorship toward democracy, over
the last half a century. Regrettably, since the inauguration of the
President Lee Myung-bak administration, Korean democracy has lost its way.

A democracy must not only allow the people to select their own
representatives through votes but also guarantee the freedoms of assembly
and association in order that they can express diverse political opinions.
We have observed how the power of the state suppressed last year's
"candlelight vigils," has issued subpoenas even to ordinary citizens who
had participated in the protests, and is restricting the lively online
exchange of ideas. The recent police blockade of Seoul Square is an
egregious example of the government denying its people a fundamental
democratic right, the freedom to assemble.

A democracy acquires a capacity for self-regulation through the free
press. We note with distress that the Public Prosecutor's Office has
questioned journalists critical of the government, and the replacement of
major broadcasting networks' executives with pro-government figures has
infringed upon the professional autonomy of rank-and-file reporters. A
foundation stone of a democracy, the free and independent press has
suffered serious damage.

The Constitution of the Republic of Korea enshrines a system of
checks-and-balances among the executive, the legislative, and the judicial
branches of the government. We regretfully recognize and call attention to
the fact that since its inauguration, the government has not upheld the
principle of checks-and-balances. Moreover, abuse of the state's power by
the Public Prosecutor's Office, the police, and the National Tax Service
is weakening the democratic principle of even and equal application of the

Speaking for North American professors interested in the health and
strength of democracy in Korea, we express deep concern over the
regression of democracy in Korea. Heart-wrenching incidents such as the
death of forced evictees during the police suppression of their protest,
the suicide of special contract workers, and the shocking decision by the
former president to end his own life are some of the tragic consequences
of a democracy that is taking backward steps in Korea; they highlight a
democracy in crisis.

A democratically elected government cannot disparage its own people,
because the mandate to govern derives from the people. We, the
undersigned, urge the government of President Lee Myung-bak to recognize
its responsibility for the democracy that has regressed and reorient
itself as a government that respects the people's sovereignty and
democratic rights. The democracy, the pride of Korea, must again find its
direction and return to the natural path of serving the people.

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