[FOUNTAIN]The cancer of injustice afflicts KoreaLee Don-myung is a veteran lawyer, whom younger lawyers call “the boss.” The octogenarian lawyer is still the marquee name of human rights defense.
Since the 1970s, he led the Jeongbeophoe, or Lawyers for Legal Justice, and later Minbyeon, Lawyers for a Democratic Society, and was in charge of assigning human rights cases to attorneys specializing in the field.
Under the Yusin Constitution and the authoritative rule of the Fifth Republic, he lost numerous cases. But prisoners of conscience such as Gwon In-suk and Seo Jun-sik could rely on his dignified voice denouncing the military regime. Mr. Lee was an attorney for Kim Keun-tae, the minister of health and welfare, who had been tortured by security police in Namyeong-dong.
In October 1986, Mr. Lee stood before the court on a charge of giving Lee Bu-young shelter. Lee Bu-young, now Uri Party chairman, was wanted for involvement in democracy demonstrations in Incheon at the time. In his closing statement, Mr. Lee said, “I wish to be the last person punished as a political retaliation by the National Security Law.” He was sentenced to six months in prison, but his wish was not granted.
Mr. Lee has stood by his belief all his life, but he has his share of regrets. He said that he was partly responsible for the fate of lawyers Jo Young-rae and Hwang In-cheol, who passed away at a young age. When he had many human rights cases in the 1980s, he had to assign more cases to the two lawyers. He feels that the two had short lives because he overworked them.
What killed Mr. Jo in 1990 and Mr. Hwang in 1993 was cancer. Mr. Lee himself is struggling with cancer as well. Poet Kim Nam-ju, who endured a long imprisonment and was finally freed, was also killed by cancer. Cancer is a disease of our times.
Injustice has ruled society for too long, and the malignancy has fed off their bodies.
A poet wrote, “Those who have been in jail would know. In prison, in a solitary cell, there’s nothing to do. There is nothing to do except for squeezing your own body and shaking it.”
The Republic of Korea has been squeezing itself and struggling with a cancer. Between a gigantic prison and a colossal hospital ward, the Republic of Korea is lying on the operating table.
by Chung Jae-suk
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.