An end to decrees, a patriot’s pen and a treasure foundDec. 8, 1979
Park Chung Hee, who headed Korea’s military dictatorship in the 1970s, was a man of determination, ready to do anything to hold onto power for a lifetime. One of his tactics was to pass a series of gingeup jochi, or Emergency Measures.
One such decree stated, “If necessary, the president can effectuate the Emergency Measures to provisionally suspend the freedom and rights of the people, which are defined in the Constitution.”
Technically, the measures’ status was similar to law. But Mr. Park interpreted them as part of the Constitution, using them to control those who opposed his dictatorship. In all, Mr. Park enacted nine Emergency Measures, which led to the arrests of a number of students and social activists.
Mr. Park’s lifetime of power ended abruptly: He was assassinated by a subordinate on Oct. 26, 1979. With the regime’s leader gone, elements of the dictatorship began to fade ― including the Emergency Measures. At midnight on this date, the government annulled the ninth Emergency Measure. The repeal was met with great enthusiasm from the activists’ camp, as 68 were released from prison, including 33 college students.
The newly freed burst into tears of joy. They did not yet know, however, that another dark age in history ― the dictatorial regime of Chun Doo Hwan ― was coming.
Dec. 8, 1880
Shin Chae-ho was prepared to devote his life to studies, until it became clear in 1905 that Japan would colonize Korea. Born on this date, Mr. Shin entered a prestigious royal school at age 17, but changed direction to pen columns for local anti-Japan newspapers. Mr. Shin also tried to inject patriotism into people’s hearts by publishing papers related to Korean history and its heroes. In 1907, Mr. Shin and his comrades were exiled to Qingdao, China and then to Vladivostok, Russia. While keeping up his writing and trying to develop overseas Korean schools, Mr. Shin also continued studying history in Manchuria, which had once been Korean territory. After enduring several power struggles in Shanghai among factions of independence groups trying to start a Korean government there, Mr. Shin became an anarchist and ran his own anti-Japanese movement until he was captured in 1928. Mr. Shin died in prison in 1936, leaving the following words: “Independence is not something that can be given but must be achieved,” and “History is a struggle between self and non-self.”
Dec. 10, 1962
Seokguram, one of Korea’s most cherished cultural artifacts, was discovered on this date in Gyeongju, South Gyeongsang province. A huge stone statue of the Buddha enveloped in a cavern in Toham Mountain, Seokguram was built during the Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to A.D. 935). According to “Samguk Yusa” (Memoirs of the Three Kingdoms), Kim Dae-seong, an architect, built Bulguksa Temple by royal order for his parents of a past life, and Seokguram for his present-day parents.
Seokguram was duly recognized as a national treasure of Korea only 10 days after its discovery. Unesco designated it a World Cultural Heritage site in 1995.
by Chun Su-jin