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[Newsmaker] Opposition party leader denies involvement in alleged martial law plan

Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn on Tuesday denied allegations made by a civic group that he took part in planning to impose martial law to quell monthslong candlelight protests if the impeachment of then President Park Geun-hye failed.

Hwang’s party filed a complaint to the prosecutors’ office against Lim Tae-hoon, the chief of the Military Human Rights Center for Korea, who raised the suspicions. 

Hwang Kyo-ahn, the chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)
Hwang Kyo-ahn, the chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)

On Monday, Lim, testifying as a witness at the parliamentary audit of the Defense Ministry, disclosed documents that he claimed were “original” papers containing the detailed scheme drawn up by the Army’s top intelligence unit, to declare martial law if Park’s impeachment was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Lim also raised the possibility that Hwang, who was then acting president, may have been involved in the scheme.

“The chief of the National Security Council at the time was Hwang, who was both the acting president and the prime minister, and he convened three NSC meetings after taking up the post,” Lim said at the parliamentary inspection.

“If Hwang did not know about the document as the chief of the NSC, he is an incapable man. If he knew, that would make him a party to a conspiracy, I think,” he said.

According to Lim, the newly revealed documents detailed that military forces would block and control all 10 bridges in Seoul and also deploy soldiers in areas such as Sinchon and near Seoul National University, if martial law were declared.

The plan also included issuing a decree that would provide the legal grounds for the arrest of opposition lawmakers, Lim said.

“The D-day for the coup d‘etat is set on March 8 (2017), that is two days before the impeachment (of Park) was finalized,” Lim added.

Conservative lawmakers raised questions about the authenticity of the documents, while pointing out that those who leaked what may be secret military papers should be punished.

The allegation that the Defense Security Command had proposed the martial law plan to suppress protests against Park were first raised last year by the civic group and a ruling party lawmaker.

The martial law plan reportedly had been drawn up by the unit in order to control the public in case the Constitutional Court overturned Park’s impeachment by the National Assembly.

After the revelation, President Moon Jae-in ordered a special investigation into the case, but DSC two-star Gen. Cho Hyun-cheon, who is suspected of being responsible for the documents, fled to the United States before a travel ban was imposed.

The Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it would have to review the claims and that it would be more actively involved in the ongoing investigation into the allegations when Cho returns to the country.

On Tuesday, Hwang said had not heard a word about martial law when he was the acting president.

“There was nothing reported (about the martial law) to me. The claim is a lie. I will make sure to take legal steps against the claim,” Hwang said after a party meeting.

Hwang admitted he participated in the NSC meetings when he needed to, but reiterated that he has not seen or heard of the documents detailing plans for martial law.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party filed a suit against Lim for charges including violation of the Military Secret Protection Act, while Hwang supporters also sued Lim for spreading false information and defamation to the Seoul District Public Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday.

By Jo He-rim (