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Tue Oct 29, 2019, 12:39 AM

South Korea- Constitutional Confrontation?

Hwang Kyo-ahn Has it Both Ways

The former prime minister is suspected of considering martial law plans in 2017, he seeks to take political credit from those who would have welcomed it, while denying he had any role.

(Source- JTBC News, 10.28 ) Hwang Kyo-ahn, former prime minister, and leader of the Liberty Korea Party, (right); and Na Kyung-won, National Assembly floor leader of Liberty Korea Party, (center) attend 40th Memorial Service for assassinated dictator Park Chung-hee (10.26). Hwang is quoted as saying, "we must learn the spirit of Park Chung-hee."

There are recent reports on the disclosure of new evidence, National Security Council documents, detailing preparations for the implementation of martial law during the waning days of the Park Geun-hye impeachment proceedings. During this time in February and early March 2017, it appears from the documentation, that the commander of the Defense Security Command, prepared plans to implement martial law, to avoid the fall of the conservative Park Geun-Hye administration. The official National Security Council documents are circumstantial evidence that the then acting president and prime minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn, had knowledge of the plans, and perhaps as acting chair of the NSC, played a role in their formulation. Hwang has made flat denials of any knowledge of such preparations for the implementation of martial law to save the conservative administration. At the time, democratic opposition protesters were carrying out massive demonstrations in Gwanghwamun and other locations in South Korea during the pendency of the Park Geun-hye impeachment process. Other observers have attempted to belittle the significance of the martial law plans, suggesting that at worst, they were only contingency plans to deal with public disorder rather than a coup d'etat to overthrow the constitutional order. It is not clear what happened during the very last days preceding the conviction of Park Geun-hye by the Constitutional Court. The critical witness to the formulation of the martial law plans, and their potential execution was the commander of the Defense Security Command, Cho Hyun-cheon ( 조현천 기무사령관 ). He was the key person involved in their development. It is important to note in this regard, that the same role was played by former president Chun Du-won as the Defense Security Command commander after the assassination of Park Chung-hee (Park Geun-hye's father) forty years earlier after the fall of the Yushin Constitution. The coup planning DSC commander Cho Hyun-cheon, in question now, fled South Korea, and his whereabouts are allegedly unknown. Interpol has refused to issue a warrant calling for his arrest citing a policy not to use legal process in political cases. All of this is according to an interview of Im Tae-hun of the Military Rights Center ( 임태훈 군인권센터 ) who represents the whistle blower who leaked classified NSC documents. *

* https://news.v.daum.net/v/20191021211005908, (transcript of youtube podcast) MBC radio interview 10.21

(Source- OhMyNews 10.30) Im Tae-hun press briefing at the Military Rights Center.

Significant detail in the 2017 martial law plans in question called for various army units to deploy to the Gwanghwamun plaza site of the so-called "candlelight" demonstrations, multiple major university campus locations, strategic bridges in Seoul, and to Yoido, the location of the National Assembly. All these tactical moves with a view toward dispersing demonstrators, arresting activists and political opposition leaders, blocking movements of citizens, and preventing the normal governmental functions of the National Assembly.

In an ironic turnabout, the Liberty Korea Party currently in its role of political opposition, has organized demonstrations at Gwanghwamun against the current Moon Jae-in, democratic administration. Although LKP floor leader Na, gave herself an award for toppling the Justice Minister Cho Guk from his newly appointed position, it is likely that the Chief Prosecutor's office is the more responsible party. After attending an overnight Gwangwhamun demonstration this weekend, LKP leaders Hwang and Na, attended the 40th memorial ceremony for former president Park Chung-hye. The former president has been credited with modernizing the Korean economy while ruling South Korea with an iron fist in a military like social order. The former dictator was also credited with "normalizing" relations with Japan, which the blog has described elsewhere. This modernization effort was characterized by self serving corruption by the former Japanese trained military officer and his pro-Japanese political and business cronies. The LKP represents the heirs of this Park political tradition. These interests have consistently blocked efforts to come to terms with the Japanese colonial legacy in Korea for decades.

Cho Guk recently had been appointed Justice Minister to reform the national prosecutor's office. It appears that there was an element of bias in prosecution resistance to the widely supported initiative to check the unbridled power of the "republic of lawyers." The apparent corruption of Cho Guk's family members gave them a lever to force him out of office. The prosecutor's office was accused of multiple leaks by some journalists which added to the political unrest in the streets. On the other hand, Im Tae-hun, who represents the martial law plans whistle blower, asserts that the Chief Prosecutors Office has deliberately sat on documentation that reflects suspicion on Hwang Kyo-Ahn complicity. The far right opposes fast track reform while an agreement has been reached by four political parties to fast track the legislation so as to get a floor vote during this session of the National Assembly.

(Source- JTBC News, 10.28 ) Hwang Kyo-ahn, leader of the Liberty Korea Party, and Na Kyung-won, National Assembly floor leader of Liberty Korea Party, are front and center at the 40th Memorial Ceremony for the former President Park Chung-hee, 10.26. The sign above the portal says refers to President Park Chung-hee's philosophy as a father of the country, a proper country has a strong military.

Ironically, Hwang's presence at the memorial service for the former dictator was marked notably by some boos and jeers calling him "traitor." It is notable that the impeachment of Park Geun-hye took place while Hwang was acting president. She was tried under impeachment proceedings. Apparently some in the conservative audience thought he should have done something about it while he had the opportunity. The peaceful transition of power by impeachment and free elections, is viewed as a betrayal of the ultra far right elements attending not only the Park 40th Memorial but also the current Gwanghwamun demonstrations sponsored by the LKP: protestant evangelicals that elected Park Geun-hye; and the far right pro-dictator elements. Hwang has been reported to have said things such as we need to remember "Park's leadership concerning the economy during a difficult economic period of which there are many examples." Also "we must learn the spirit of Park Chung-hee." As to the anti-Moon Jae-in demonstrations calling for his arrest and ouster, Hwang said the demonstrations reflect the "anger of the people." Political commentators noted that it is evident that the LKP leadership intends these demonstrations continue. There were other cynical observations about the role of churches and the party apparently furnishing free food as inducements to gather. One expert said, Cho Guk's fall was no cause to relax, "they caught the rabbit in the house, now it's time to catch the rabbit in the mountain." Another observation was that South Korea may only be at the half way point in this constitutional confrontation.

Meanwhile in another late news item, it was reported that leader Na, appeared at press briefing with the National Assembly leader, Moon Hee-sang, and two other party leaders, to announce that the Assembly committee handling fast track legislation has referred a prosecutorial reform bill to the floor for a vote. During the news item it was noted that the representatives from the center right Barun Mirae Party, and the Justice Party were demonstrating on the floor for a vote to fast track the Legislative reform bill first. As the blog has noted previously, it is this extension of proportional (nation wide) seating that is expected to decrease the number of district seats held by the Liberty Korea Party. Until this matter is resolved, the street politics and political theater in Seoul is likely to continue unabated. Na said something like this to the National Assembly leader, "I'd rather stop this unconstitutional fast track process than hold hands" (for a photo shoot). The leader responded, "I'd rather hold a wrist, than be grabbed by the ankle." The latter a reference to the continual obstruction of legislation by the LKP opposition. LKP physical obstruction of committee efforts led by Na last April is currently subject to an investigation by prosecutors.

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