NY Attorney Sean Hayes was a professor of Con. Law, a Research Officer for the Constitutional Court of Korea and is frequently ranked a Top Attorney in Asia. He, presently, heads up an international team of lawyers. He is a candidate for New York City Council. SeanHayes@HayesSimon.com.
South Korea sits at a salient crossroad with one road leading further towards being a mature liberal democracy and the other leading back to its recent dictatorial past, however, this time the control shall be in the hands of North Korea and China.
Korea’s President Moon’s administration overly friendly relationship with North Korea and China is concerning for the future of politics in Korea. A recent example sheds light on tactics being used by the Radical Left in Korea to stifle dissent. These tactics are implicitly welcomed by North Korea and China. Korea has improving relations with China and North Korea with even Korean politicians noting that North Korea can play the role of mediator between North Korea and the United States, thus, evidencing the fence sitting that Korea is playing.
With these recent developments, Korea’s democracy is at risk. Without the freedom of speech and the press the politics of the ruling party shall rule over the nation. Without the freedom of speech and press the Chinese Communist Party and North Korea can bribe and bully its way into the politics of Korea as it is doing throughout Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East.
The problem in Korea comes from a peculiarity in Korean Law. In Korea, the truth is not a defense to criminal or civil defamation, the right to assembly is strictly limited and those engaged in alleged defamation may face time in jail.
For example, the South Korean Government prosecuted Rev. Kwang-Hoon JEON and imprisoned him for leading public rallies against the Pres. Moon Administration. Rev. Jeon noted during these rallies that: “Moon Jae-in is a spy” for North Korea; “The President attempted to communize the Republic of Korea;” and Moon is attempting to impose Juche (North Korean Communist Ideology) on the population.
While the claims of Rev. JEON may or may not be true, the question arises whether he has the right to make these statements in front of a crowd of supporters during a church gathering or assembly? In America, and much of the advanced democratic world, the answer is a resounding -Yes.
This article is not to defend the words and actions of Rev. Jeon, but to defend the rights that he has under the Korean Constitution. The Constitution of Korea, facially, guarantees the right to free speech, the freedom of the press and the right to assembly. However, in Korea, the truth is not a defense to a criminal or civil charge of defamation; the freedom of assembly is regulated to point of near impossibility of legally holding an assembly, and the election law is used, too often, as a mere tool to punish political dissent against the administration in power and, thus, limit the power of the opposition.
For our democracy we must be thick skinned. Having a flagrant, perverse, or non-sensical opinion should not be in the power of the government to punish or we risk putting too much power in the hands of the government and, thus, the into the hands of the powers that be. And the powers that be can, easily, be in the hands of the Chinese. As in the words of U.S. President Harry Truman “[o]nce a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
The following example of Rev. Jeon should be a wake-up call to Korea. The Korean Prosecution Services should refrain from prosecuting and/or demanding detention for anyone accused of violating laws related to the freedom of speech, press and assembly (if the assembly is non-violent).
I care deeply about this issue, since I love my dynamic Korea, its passionate people, and spicy food & politics. I am afraid Korea is being spun by the Far Left via buying of the loyalty of the people through spending and naked promises, while stifling political opposition.
I lived in Korea for over two decades and was honored to be the first non-Korean to be employed by the Korean Court System (Constitutional Court of Korea); one of the first expats to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty; and one of the first to co-lead a team of lawyers at an international law firm in Korea.
I fear a country I consider my second home and that I love is at a critical crossroads. Korea, only, became a democracy via revisions to the Korean Constitution in 1987; only allowed the ownership of land by foreigners, since 1997; and, overwhelming refused to sentence heads of conglomerates to jail for corruption until the last decade.
All of the last seven presidents of Korea were alleged to have been involved in corruption. The last two Korean presidents (Pres. Lee and Pres. Park) are serving jail sentences; one president committed suicide, after knowing that he may be investigated by the prosecution (Pres. Roh); one was sentenced to death by a court (Pres. Chun), another was sentenced to life in jail (Pres. Roh) and the first president fled to America to avoid near certain death by the people (Pres. Rhee).
Korea is still far from a “mature” democracy. A major step shall be the population declaring that “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear” (George Orwell) and pushing a revision to law to not allow the Korean Prosecution to request detention warrants for mere political dissent not coupled with violence or we may be throwing ourselves into the grips of North Korean and China.
Sean Hayes (Candidate for New York City Council in District 1)
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