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New Left Review I/77, January-February 1973


David Valence

Opposition in South Korea

South Korea is a country where the words ‘Yankee, Go Home’ can be punished by one year’s imprisonment under the Anti-communist Law, and where a judge can tell an opposition presidential candidate that ‘the freedom of speech prescribed in the Constitution does not mean unlimited freedom’. [1] Seoul judge No Sung-du when sentencing presidential candidate Kim Chul 9 December 1971. The government’s purpose has been summed up by its leader Pak Jung-hi in his book, Our Nation’s Path: ‘The democracy we aim to build should be one that meets social and political reality and not the unworkable West European Democracy. Our type of democracy can be termed “Administrative Democracy”.’ In such a country opposition groups have to fight for their very existence. The stakes are high, and the government’s inability to distinguish between different types of opposition groups produces strange alliances; radicals and liberals, and even progressive conservatives, find themselves aligned together against the regime. Official and unofficial groups are often mixed; elderly conservatives who remember the Japanese occupation find themselves in sympathy with radical students fighting Japanese economic investment. This means that divisions become blurred, aims and purposes diffused. But one theme overrides all others among the Korean opposition:

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