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

Eugene Y. Park eugene.y.park at uci.edu
Wed Jun 10 15:25:56 EDT 2009

Dear Sang-Hyun,

As a member of the steering committee that dealt with the logistics of
circulating that statement, I would like to apologize about the confusion.
I guess everyone in the committee felt that it was more important to
circulate the ever-changing draft as much as possible before finally
deciding on the scope issue. There were those who wanted to make this
effort more or less parallel all these "gyosu siguk seoneonmun" of South
Korea while others wanted to be as inclusive as possible. In the end,
again I cannot thank you and others like you enough for your expressions
of support!


On Wed, 6 10, 2009 08:20, S. Kim wrote:
> 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.
> Best,
> Sang-Hyun
> ----- 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.

Eugene (Gene) Y. Park
Associate Professor
Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697 USA

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