Court rules Park Chung-hee’s 1970s emergency decrees unconstitutional

By Oh Kyu-wook | Source: ANN
South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that former President Park Chung-hee’s draconian decrees in the 1970s were unconstitutional and infringed the basic rights of citizens.

In a unanimous decision, the court said that Presidential Emergency Decrees No. 1, No. 2 and No. 9 issued in 1974 and 1975 were “not in accord with basics principles of democracy.”

Park, the father of President Park Geun-hye, ruled the nation from 1961 to 1979 before he was assassinated.

The court said the first and second decrees “prevented any criticism of the government,” and “misused the judicial power and overruled the freedom of expression and political rights of citizens.”

The landmark ruling set the stage for nullifying all past rulings made in accordance with the decrees based on the Yushin Constitution declared in 1972.

The decision came almost three years after Oh Jong-sang, 71, and five others filed a case with the Constitutional Court in early 2010.

Oh was indicted in 1974 on charges of violating Presidential Emergency Decree No. 1 and the National Security Law for making critical remarks in public against the late Park’s administration. He served a three-year jail term.

In 2007, Oh applied for a retrial on the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Supreme Court in 2010 overturned the rulings and cleared him of all charges.

Park proclaimed the Yushin Constitution in 1972 to prolong his stay in power indefinitely.

He issued a series of decrees, invoking Article 53 of the new constitution that allowed him to take extraordinary measures to give law enforcement organs, including the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, extensive powers to crack down on press and citizens.

Presidential Emergency Decree No.1 issued in January 1974 outlawed all public remarks and statements opposing the Yushin Constitution, and Emergency Decree No. 2 allowed for violators of Decree No. 1 to be put into custody without an arrest warrant and jailed for up to 15 years.

The following year, the late Park issued another Presidential Emergency Decree, No.9, which banned all politically motivated group activities and gatherings to crack down on student demonstrations.