Park Chung Hee’s Decree No. 1 was unconstitutional

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Park Chung Hee’s Decree No. 1 was unconstitutional

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that former President Park Chung Hee’s 1974 Emergency Decree No. 1 was unconstitutional on the grounds that it severely infringed upon people’s basic rights.

“Because the president’s Emergency Decree No. 1 wasn’t a law passed in the National Assembly, the matter of whether it’s unconstitutional or not is determined by the Supreme Court, [not the Constitutional Court],” the court said in its verdict. “Decree No. 1 is unconstitutional because it lacks legal qualifications. It became a law without being legislated by the assembly. It went far and infringed upon people’s basic rights.”

This is the first time that the Supreme Court found the controversial action unconstitutional since it was declared by Park more than a year after he imposed the Yushin Constitution in 1972.

The Yushin Constitution allowed Park to dissolve the National Assembly and prolonged his dictatorship without checks until he was assassinated in 1979 by his intelligence chief.

Emergency Decree No. 1 banned people from “opposing, distorting and criticizing the Korean constitution.” It also banned any attempts to spread critical opinions on abolishing or revising the Korean constitution, in addition to spreading groundless rumors.

If anybody was caught violating Emergency Decree No. 1, the person was subjected to search and arrest, faced a jail term of up to 15 years and led to the loss of an occupational license for 15 years.

A 69-year-old man who served a three-year jail term for violating Emergency Decree No. 1 was cleared of all charges as a result of yesterday’s landmark ruling. It abolished all the Supreme Court’s previous rulings on cases related to the emergency action.

Oh Jong-sang, 69, was jailed for and suspended from his job for three years after he was charged with criticizing the Yushin Constitution and spreading malicious rumors about the Park administration in May 1974.

Oh told a high school girl on a bus that while the government’s policy encouraged the use of flour-based foods, he doubted whether the people would follow the policy when high-ranking government officials and the upper class were enjoying access to more chunks of meat and lots of boiled egg in their soup, instead of just flour noodles. In 2007, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reviewed Oh’s case and called for a retrial to restore his reputation.


By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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