South Korea: Man on Horseback to the Rescue?

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      Tainted Retired General Comes to the “Aid” of LKP conservative opposition leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn

      Former ROK Army Commander of the 2nd Operational Command, Park Chan-ju, has made a splash in South Korean political and media circles, by publicly announcing he is interested in running for the National Assembly representative as a nominee of the opposition Liberty Korea Party. Park pretty much ended his long military career in a cloud of opprobrium. He was investigated by the Suwon District Prosecutors Office for abuse of military subordinates at his official residence. The case was referred by the Army. The couple allegedly used Army subordinates in uniform to wash clothes, and drive the general’s children here and there on private business in official vehicles. Other allegations were that uniformed service members were used to tend a private garden and also to fetch golf balls. Service members alleged they were verbally and physically abused by the general’s wife. The charges against the general were dropped. Notably, the accusations originated at the Military Human Rights Center and were based upon statements of complaining service members who worked at the general’s official residence.

      See: South Korean general, wife accused of treating conscripts like ‘slaves’

      Along with this disgraceful episode General Park was charged for accepting bribes and improper gifts and services from private donors. After conviction at the first trial he was given a suspended sentence of four months and some heavy fines. At a second trial he was acquitted of the bribery charge, but found to have violated military rules with respect to the acceptance of gratuities and fined a relatively small amount, four million won related to recognized improprieties.

      (Source- JTBC News 11.3) Former General of the ROK Army Park Chan-ju, progress of judicial process: Abuse of employees charge- not guilty disposition; bribery charges- found not guilty at second trial; graft charges- fined 4 million won.

      General Park recently made widely covered public statements that the Moon Jae-in administration is damaging South Korean national security by seeking peace not backed by military stength. Additionally, he has attacked BG Im Tae-hun, from the Military Human Rights Center, indicating that his allegations concerning public disclosures of the martial law plans drawn up by the National Security Council in early 2017 while Hwang Kyo-ahn was acting president of South Korea, were politically motivated and untrue. The retired general claimed to be speaking on behalf of active duty generals who were not free to speak out against the administration.

      What is sensational about the former general’s remarks made at a public press conference is a statement that it was apparent to him that Im Tae-hun had not ever been to the Samcheong Education Camp, which is a reference to a harsh boot camp like political education center to which 40,000 civilian political prisoners were sent after martial law was declared by Chun Doo-hwan in May 1980. Many persons sent to this camp at the time either died from their injuries or were seriously injured. Prisoners were commonly physically beaten and suffered other kinds of painful behavior modification techniques. It seems telling that the general would make such a reference considering the recent charges of abuse of service members against him, the history of the Samcheong facility, and the current political context. The reference imputes a sinister message to the Liberty Korea Party for those who have not yet recognized the implications of the veneration of the tradition of the dictatorships, and the current political threat of a return to such conditions.

      (Source- JTBC News, 11.4 ) Former ROK Army General Park Chan-ju: “The head of the Military Human Rights Center (Im Tae-hun, center) needs to go to Samcheong Education Camp.”

      Political commentators noted that the general does not seek to run as a proportional representation candidate of the Liberty Korea Party which may indicate something about the prospects of a junior candidate’s Liberty Korea Party earning enough votes to put him in office. He prefers to run as his home district’s ( Cheonan city, Chungcheondo) candidate where it is felt his prospects would be much better. It is acknowledged that among conservative circles there would naturally be support for General Park as a National Assembly candidate. It is questioned if it wouldn’t be imprudent, in light of the recent Cho Kuk debacle to put forward a candidate who regardless of judicial outcomes in the Suwon District Court, seems to share some features of the recent Minister of Justice’s corruption scandal. A concern is that younger party members and voters would be put off by the old general’s political baggage and his hyperbolic references to prior martial law mechanisms. As one JTBC political analyst put it “wouldn’t it be adding insult to injury?” The LKP seems to be moving further and further right in an effort to regain political power from the democratic administration. Will they adopt the messaging of the old general on horseback? Or will the LKP back away from blatant far right extremism that they have been coyly seeking to unleash?

      (Source- JTBC News 11.4) On May 17, 1980, directly after the emergency declaration of martial law, the National Security Emergency Countermeasures Committee, as a part of the Social Purification Policy, established the military command, the Samcheong Education Camp.

      For background on Samcheong “Training” Camp see:

      S. Korean junta punished civilians with military camp in early 1980s: report
      Posted on : Nov.11,2006 16:50 KST Modified on : Nov.11,2006 16:50 KST

      I wrote this after listening to and reading South Korean media sources.  I put English sources in here to corroborate my understanding of the Korean language reporting I relied on.   This article is actually a follow up to a prior article I wrote on the right wing leadership of the opposition LKP party and their approach to the extreme right.   This is the link to Part I:


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