The 5th Republic’s specter
In South Korea, since the establishment of the country in 1948, we’ve always had republics, so it is misleading to number them as in France. It would be correct to say that it is a Korean way of distinguishing governments based on constitutional amendment and political upheavals. President Syngman Rhee’s First Republic (1948-1960) saw the change from a presidential system to a cabinet system after the April 19 student movement that led to the establishment of the Second Republic (1960-1961). Then the change to a presidential system after the May 16 upheaval led to the establishment of the Third Republic (1961-1971). The Revitalizing Reforms period marked the Fourth Republic (1972-1979), and President Chun Doo-hwan’s eighth constitutional amendment ushered in the Fifth (1980-1987).
After the June 10 upheaval, the presidential system changed from indirect to direct elections. And since the rule of Roh Tae-woo, we have the Sixth Republic.
Recently, many are talking about the Fifth Republic. It is especially related to the broadcasting policy of the present government. The government is claiming “the end of the Fifth Republic,” while the media labor unions and broadcasters are claiming “the recurrence of the Fifth Republic.”
For example, the government wants to return everything to before the Fifth Republic, since it was the Basic Media Law of 1980 that led to the problems of MBC’s ownership structure, KBS-2 TV and the Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation. The government wants to discard the remnants of that law. On the other hand, it is difficult for the government not to be criticized as the recurrence of the Fifth Republic, because of the appointment of personnel at YTN according to political lines. Further, the government is having prosecutors investigate TV programs critical of the government and it is risking the government’s life in a broadcaster’s presidential reshuffle. Whether the end or the revival of the Fifth Republic, it is lamentable that we are haunted by evil spirits of the Fifth Republic.
By Yang Sung-hee[firstname.lastname@example.org]
*The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.