In the wake of the August 1973 abduction of Kim Dae-jung, the opposition parties and anti-government forces launched a struggle against the so-called Yushin (revitalizing) system. On Dec. 24, a 1-million-signature drive for a constitutional revision kicked off.
On Jan. 8, 1974 President Park Chung-hee, confronting resistance, proclaimed Emergency Decree No. 1 under the Yushin Constitution. It banned campaigns against the Constitution or calling for its amendment. Emergency Decree No. 2, promulgated on the same day, established special courts martial to punish violators.
On April 3, Emergency Decree No. 4 was proclaimed involving the National Federation of Democratic Youth and Students incident, whereby the death sentence was demanded for 14 defendants involved, including Lee Chul and Yoo In-tae. A national referendum on the Yushin Constitution was held on Feb. 12, 1975, in which 79.8 percent of the electorates cast ballots and 73.1 cent supported the constitution. On April 8, Emergency Decree No. 7, suspending Korea University, was proclaimed. On the same day, eight defendants of the People's Revolutionary Party Reconstruction Committee incident received death sentences. They were executed the following day. The Institute of International Law, (Institut de Droit international) headquartered in Geneva declared it "the darkest day" in the history of law.
The emergency decrees culminated in No. 9 on May 13, which banned not only "actions opposing, distorting and slandering the republic's Constitution, and asserting, petitioning and instigating its revision or repeal" but also "actions openly abusing this decree." Violators could be arrested, detained and searched without a warrant. It remained in effect for nine years and allowed Park to proceed with the industrialization on account of political stability, but it was a dark period for democracy.
The security crisis came to a head in April 1975 following the fall of South Vietnam. War clouds hung over the Korean Peninsula when two U.S. Army officers were murdered in the Panmunjom joint security area on Aug. 18, 1976, The scandal in October saw Korean lobbyist Park Tong-sun bribe members of Congress, and suspected American eavesdropping of Cheong Wa Dae. U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who was sworn in early 1977, criticized South Korea's human rights record and announced a plan to withdraw U.S. troops. Deteriorating Korea-U.S. relations intensified the Yushin crisis.