Monday, February 21, 2011

Japan: US and Japan 1980's pro-democracy pressure in S. Korea

Japan Times

PJ: As I posted earlier, the US has a long history of supporting those who promote democracy. This story is a prime example of that active support. In a bi-partisan effort by US lawmakers and under the first term of Ronald Reagan's presidency, the US along with Japan worked to free Kim Dae Jung, a democracy advocate in S. Korea who would later become that country's president.

Recent events in the Middle East would leave one to expect to see further bi-partisan efforts to promote democratic rule in that region. And in fact, President Obama has spoken extensively about how people in the Middle East should be awarded the freedom of democratic rule. However, as earlier posts have cited, many in the Republican party have balked at the idea of democratic rule in places like Egypt for fear of losing strategic friendships in the region as well as fear of elected governments that they may not favour.

U.S., Japan pressed Seoul to spare Kim's life in '80

SEOUL (Kyodo) The United States and Japan put intense pressure on the military-backed government in South Korea in 1980 to prevent the execution of then leading dissident Kim Dae Jung, Yonhap News Agency reported Monday, citing declassified diplomatic documents.

U.S. lawmakers pressured the government of President Chun Doo Hwan through resolutions, statements and letters to the general-turned-leader, warning of jeopardized relations, cutting of exchanges and the suspension of economic assistance if Kim, who later became South Korea's president, was executed over trumped-up charges of treason, the documents show.

Japan also pressed the South not to carry out the execution, saying it would put a great strain on relations between the two countries and warning that an execution could force Tokyo to seek greater exchanges with North Korea, according to the documents declassified 30 years after their production.

Kim went on to serve as president for five years from 1998 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. He died in 2009.

"Should the death sentence now facing Kim Dae Jung be carried out, then the traditionally strong relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea could itself be put in jeopardy," nine U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Lester Wolff, said in an Oct. 3, 1980, letter to Chun, the documents show, according to Yonhap.

In 1980, Kim and other leading opposition figures were arrested on charges of treason by Gen. Chun Doo Hwan, who imposed martial law as he moved to take over the presidency following the assassination of President Park Chung Hee a year earlier.

Kim Dae Jung was sentenced to death for allegedly fomenting a democracy uprising in the southern city Gwangju.

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