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

S. Kim shkim67 at gmail.com
Wed Jun 10 11:20:27 EDT 2009

I personally fully support the statement, but just want to note that ... 
it'd have been much nicer if we're informed in advance of the decision to 
restrict the signatures to professors only (rather than "professors and 
scholars" as originally proposed). Several of us who're postdocs or 
non-faculty researchers were a bit confused about that last-minute change.



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Eugene Y. Park" <eugene.y.park at uci.edu>
To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2009 3:45 PM
Subject: [KS] Reminder: Statement from Professors in North America Concerned 
about Korean Democracy

> 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,
> Gene
> 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
> law.
> 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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