Thursday, February 07, 2008

[The Hankyoreh, January 17 2008] [Editorial] The historic acquittal of Jo Yong-su

Yesterday, a court ruled that the late Jo Yong-su, president of the newspaper Minjok Ilbo, was not guilty of the crimes for which he was executed by the military government of Park Chung-hee shortly after its coup d’etat in 1961. While this judgment does not bring Jo back to life, we truly hope to see it be of at least some consolation to Jo’s family and those who were affected by the case, all who have lived in much pain in the decades since.

The court’s decision confirms that the actions of the military government were indeed a “judicial murder.” The dictatorship saw that, from its inception, the Minjok Ilbo’s editorial position called for peaceful reunification while also calling for South Korea to declare its neutrality, which would imply a break in its alliance with the United States. As this perspective was becoming immensely popular, the regime closed down the paper and framed Jo as someone engaged in activities on behalf of Pyongyang. For Park Chung-hee, who justified his military coup as a sacred action taken to save the country, which as he saw it was facing a menacing threat from the North, the existence of the progressive newspaper could not be tolerated. Legal principles were disregarded and a special law had to be put together in order to apply it against him retroactively.

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