The following statement has been drafted and endorsed by over 200 scholars concerned about Korean democracy.
September 1, 2013
Recent actions by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) are raising concerns that Korea’s hard-won democracy is under threat. The NIS and its former director are currently under investigation for very serious allegations of interference in last year’s presidential election. But with that investigation ongoing and talk among politicians across party lines of the need for NIS reform, the agency has mounted what appears to be a counterattack, moving against a minor opposition party and one of its lawmakers with charges of plotting a rebellion. These charges have been unheard of since the days of the military dictatorship that ended in 1987. They bring to mind previous travesties like the charges of sedition levelled at political dissident and later president and Nobel Peace Laureate Kim Dae Jung in 1980 and the fabricated People’s Revolutionary Party case of 1975 which claimed the lives of eight innocent people, later exonerated.
South Korea has rightly been seen as a beacon for democratisation from below, as a model of how a dictatorship can transition, largely peacefully, to a thriving democracy with a civil society that is the envy of many around the world. However, it has also been clear to many that under the continuing cold war conditions on the Korean peninsula South Korea’s democratic transition remains unfinished. There have long been concerns that South Korea’s hidden ‘security state’ has never actually gone away and the recent actions of the NIS have given new credibility to those concerns. Furthermore, we are gravely concerned that alongside the accusation of treason, the National Security Law, a vestige of Cold War anticommunism with a history of abuse, is once again being used to attack opposition politicians.
Read the full statement and list of signatories online