Assertion that ex-president made ‘best choice available’ sparks rage from liberals, conservatives
Saenuri Party presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye is drawing fire from all corners for her comments defending her father’s 1961 coup and his 16-year dictatorial rule.
Speaking at a forum organized by the Korea News Editors Association on Monday, Park said that her father was forced to “make the best choice” available to him at the time.
She also said that the coup played an essential role in national development, and that the judgment of her father’s regime should be left to history.
“The 5.16 created the cornerstone for the country’s development and for the Korea of today. In this regard, it can be judged that the right decision was made (by Park Chung-hee).”
Park’s stance on the issue has not changed much since 2007 when she referred to the coup as a “revolution for saving the country.”
Park’s father Park Chung-hee overthrew the government in a military coup on May 16, 1961, and served as the president from 1963 until he was assassinated in 1979.
The latest comments about her father, however, are drawing heavy fire from both opposition and ruling parties’ presidential hopefuls.
On his Facebook account Democratic United Party presidential frontrunner Moon Jae-in expressed deep concern for Park’s views.
“(I am) deeply concerned about the hopeless future the ‘illogical view on history’ so far removed from the ‘historical truth’ will bring,” Moon said.
“The view that it was an unavoidable second best choice also means denying the self-esteem and pride of the sacred sacrifices of the ‘democratic patriotic martyrs’ who established and protected democracy.”
The DUP, which had called on Park to clarify her stance on the issue, was far from appeased by her comments and quickly responded to the comments, saying that the comments reveal “the pride of an absolute ruler.”
High profile conservatives also joined in criticizing Park.
“Regardless of how unavoidable it was, we call it coup d’etat when the government is overthrown with tanks,” Gyeonggi Province governor and presidential hopeful Kim Moon-soo said on a local radio show on Tuesday. He added that although Park Chung-hee attempted to go through various democratic processes, he was a dictator.
“It cannot be said that 5.16 itself was a good development just because the following industrial revolution was a success.”
Former Presidential Chief-of-Staff Yim Tae-hee also voiced similar views on radio, saying “historical judgment can’t be changed just because good results were achieved afterwards, while Rep. Lee Jae-oh of the Saenuri Party criticized Park through his Twitter account.
“What should we say if the descendants of (those responsible) for the Korean War and annexation of Korea by Japan say that they were ‘the best choice unavoidable at the time,” Lee said.
“Yushin dictatorship is on an issue judgment of which should be put off, it was the era of the most severe human rights violations leading to a long-term dictatorship.”
Yushin is a word meaning “reform” used by the Park Chung-hee administration in reference to itself.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)