Chi Ha Kim’s Declaration of Conscience Delegitimizes Korean Dictator Park, 1975

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Timing
Time Period:  
14 March
1975
to
4 August
1975
Location and Goals
Country: 
South Korea
Location City/State/Province: 
Seoul
Location Description: 
Chi Ha Kim was incarcerated in the Western Gate Prison
Goals: 
To smuggle out declaration of conscience that would largely delegitimize the President Jung Hee Park's regime
 

Chi Ha Kim was a poet and playwright who gained prominence through his anti-establishment literature. He inspired many dissidents by inculcating them with courage to stand up against the illegitimate regime and exposing the corrupted nature of the current regime. One of his most renowned satires is The Five Bandits, in which he refers to the five bandits as congressman, military official, chairman, the Secretary, and public servant with a high rank, who hold a robbery contest in which the most corrupted wins.

The political scene that Chi Ha Kim criticized was one that was largely controlled by the Park Jung Hee regime. Park, who had been the President of South Korea through military coup since 1962, tried to make his rule unchallengeable by amending Constitutional Law in 1968. He then in 1970 declared an Emergency Measure, a martial law that tentatively suspended the constitutional rights of individuals in a circumstance that the government deemed necessary. While this stirred public resentment and a fervent pro-democratic movement, Park’s regime was now able to easily arrest the dissidents through the charge of violating Anti-Communist Laws.

In April 1974, 253 citizens and students affiliated with the Federation of the Democratic Youth and Students (FDYS) were arrested. 23 of them were convicted on the charge that they clandestinely established a People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) to topple down South Korean government with the support of North Korea. Others were charged with plotting a nationwide student rebellion to help PRP. Kim was arrested as one of the “wire-pullers” who presumably helped the plots of FDYS. The court condemned him to death, but an international outcry led to a reduced sentence. Kim was eventually released on February 15, 1975.

Right after his release Kim wrote three serial articles, “Austerities 1974” which were published from February 25 to 27 by Dong-a Daily Newspaper. In the articles he described his experience in the prison, in which the prisoners faced harsh torture by KCIA. Moreover, he recounted the secret conversation he had with Jae Wan Ha, one of the student members convicted of “establishing the PRP.” The dialogue between Ha and himself exposed the KCIA’s effort to fabricate the PRP court case in spite of the fact that there was no such party as PRP, and no one was involved in an effort to topple the government.

Kim was rearrested on March 14—only 27 days after he had been released—by the KCIA. After being severely tortured for five days by the KCIA, he surrendered at the sixth day by signing the “official recognition” of his violation of anti-communist laws, the endorsement of Marxist ideology, and ties with the North Korean government. The government published the fabricated acknowledgement of Kim as a pamphlet, translated it into nine languages, and circulated this pamphlet around the world. By stigmatizing Kim and the motives of his supporters as Marxist and threatening national security, the government publicly delegitimized the democratic movement as well as Kim.

The court then announced that Kim’s trial would begin May 19, 1975. This posed a serious threat to Kim’s life because there was little time for Kim’s lawyers to prepare a defense. They thought there was strong likelihood that Kim would be hanged right after the court’s decision. This prediction was based on the fact that the eight accused members of "PRP" were executed only 18 hours after the Supreme Court’s decision on April 8; the government officials thoroughly plotted to quickly get rid of the dissidents by manipulating the evidence and pressuring the court to implement the decision right away.

Kim’s lawyers discovered a way to gain some time. Although largely underutilized, the contemporary law allowed the defendant to challenge the judges in the court and delay the date of court appearance if he/she could prove that the judges were prejudiced and that this prejudice would affect the court decision. Kim stated that “because the presiding judge is the one that took the cases of PRP and FDYS, I doubt that there would be a fair trial. Thus, I challenge the judge.”

Due to this “surprise attack” Kim was able to delay the date of his court appearance and earn time for his lawyers to prepare thoroughly and for his supporters to help him.

Supporters looked for a way to expose the KCIA’s oppressive effort to fabricate Kim’s “confession” and to clarify Kim’s actual stance on Marxism. They decided that Kim should write a Declaration of Conscience, smuggle it out of the prison, and release it worldwide to draw international support.

Despite the clear strategy, however, the cell that Kim was assigned was almost impervious. Kim was neither allowed to write nor read. He couldn’t grab pens or pencils; he wasn’t even allowed to read the Bible. He was under surveillance 24 hours a day, and public access through prison receptions were denied -- even his family members were denied access. Only lawyers and clergy were allowed visits, under prison guards’ supervision.

The supporters of Kim contacted Yong Chun, a prison guard who was sympathetic to the ideals of democratic activists. Chun agreed to engage in a secretive mission to help Kim write a declaration of conscience.

Every midnight, when he was on duty to supervise Kim, Chun handed out papers and pencils to Kim. When he had to leave, he would take what Kim had written and secretly hand it to a group of activists. What Kim had written was organized by Young Rae Cho, his former lawyer. Cho was wanted by the police at that time, for his prominence in defending democratic activists arrested by the Park regime.

In Kim’s declaration, which began, “To all who cherish justice and truth,” he tried to defend himself from a “preposterous plot” of Park’s regime to impose on him a Marxist stigma. Kim claimed himself to be libertarian rather than communist, but contended that Park’s regime was forcing him to become “a broiled red squid.” He refuted Park’s charge by tagging its effort to fabricate as a “preliminary operation to discredit and persecute the democratic activists and movements.”

In July, when the declaration was finally finished, it was sent to Japan by a Japanese clergyman who was affiliated with the Catholic Council of Justice and Peace (CCJP), which supported Korea’s democratic movement. On 4 August the Catholic priests from CCJP held a press conference in Tokyo and announced that Kim had written his Declaration of Conscience. The declaration was presented in the translated version of Japanese and English.

The Declaration of Conscience drew worldwide support for Kim and the democratic movement of Korea. Politicians, intellectuals, and theologians, including Willy Brandt, Noam Chomsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, Herbert Marcuse, Simone de Beauvoir, Johann Metz, and Jurgen Moltman, signed a petition sent to the President Park on Kim’s behalf.

However, Kim received worse treatment after the declaration was released. Closed circuit TVs were installed to supervise Kim all day. Any paper supplies—even toilet paper—were not allowed. Kim was also forbidden to have receptions with lawyers and clergymen.

Five years later – 11 December 1980 – Kim was released. The declaration succeeded both in delegitimizing the Park regime and in drawing support for Kim both nationally and internationally.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Kim was arrested because of three serial articles titled "Austerities 1974", which he wrote to expose the harsh torture by KCIA and its effort to fabricate the evidence in PRP court trial. (1)

Sources: 
Kim, Jung Nam. (2005) “진실, 광장에 서다: 민주화운동 30년의 역정 [Truth Rise Up in a Square: 30 Years History of Democratization Movement].” Changbi Publication

“The Kim Chi Ha Case.” Cummings, Bruce. October 16, 1975. The New York Review of Books. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1975/oct/16/the-kim-chi-ha-case/?pagination=false

Sunoo, Harold Hakwon. (1976) The Story of Kim Chi Ha. Librero International. http://www.negations.net/librero/number4.htm

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Soul Han, 14/10/2012