August 28, 2008 11:23
Oct. 17, 1972 looked much like other days, ordinary and calm. No street protests, no military provocation. Yet that same evening, President Park Chung-hee abruptly declared an emergency. He proclaimed martial law across the country, dissolved the National Assembly, banned political activities and said a new Constitution would be promulgated within 10 days. Censorship of the press, publishing and broadcasting went into effect. In short, constitutional rule was suspended.
The October Yushin (revitalizing) reform, making Park effectively president for life, had been his own idea. The phrase, "A cause of the measure was approaches by the U.S. and China" was deleted from the prepared statement on the morning of its announcement. The term Yushin recalled for many Japan's Meiji Restoration in the 19th century.
The Constitution promulgated on Oct. 27 was finalized in a national referendum on Nov. 21 under martial law. It gave the president the right to proclaim emergencies, dissolve the legislature and nominate one-third of the lawmakers and justices, but the legislature was banned from impeaching a president. On Dec. 15, an election was held to form the National Conference for Unification that would elect the president. Some 2,359 NCU members, carefully vetted by the government through the registration process of registration, duly elected Park president at the Jangchung Gymnasium in Seoul on Dec. 23. Park, the sole candidate, was elected the republic's sixth president for a six-year term with the support of 2,357 NCU members.
The president exercise absolute power, unchecked by any organs of the state, and the political principles of representative democracy faded. The fourth republic was born on Dec. 27, 1972 when the Yushin constitution was promulgated. Under the new system established by a 91.9 percent balloting ratio and 91.5 percent support, Park started to push ahead with his plan to foster new growth industries.
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