Catholic priests speak out against NIS political interference

Posted on : 2013-07-26 15:01 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Manifestos and other actions show signs of broad public backlash to scandal
 and announcing the release of their manifesto “Justice Does Not Die”
and announcing the release of their manifesto “Justice Does Not Die”

By Kim Kwang-soo and Jung Dae-ha, Busan and Gwangju correspondents

On July 25, the priests of the Busan diocese of the Catholic Church released a manifesto titled, “Justice Does Not Die.” The manifesto denouncing the National Intelligence Service (NIS) is the first release by the priests in 26 years.

The priests gathered at the Catholic Center in Busan, as they did in June 1987 at the time of the South Korea’s democratization movement.

About half of the 250 active priests in the Busan diocese were present. (There are 350 priests in the diocese altogether, but this number includes older priests who have retired and others who are overseas.)

“As if illegally interfering in the presidential election was not enough, the National Intelligence Service released the transcript of the 2007 inter-Korean summit, even though it was classified, in order to conceal its flagrant disregard for the laws of the land,” the priests wrote in their manifesto.

“Furthermore, the Saenuri Party (NFP) illegally obtained the transcript and put it to use in the presidential election. These acts are completely shocking.”

“The Park Geun-hye administration must not forget that, if it fails to cut off ties with the mistakes of the past and take responsibility for these actions, it could arouse the resistance of democratic citizens such as was seen in the April 19 Revolution, the Busan-Masan Protests, and the June Democratization Movement,” they warned.

The Busan diocese was the first of 15 Catholic dioceses in South Korea to issue a manifesto. Following this, about 200 priests who are part of the Gwangju Diocese decided to release a manifesto next week.

After the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980, the Gwangju Diocese asked the military junta led by Chun Doo-hwan to apologize for its use of excessive force against the citizens of Gwangju. The fervor behind the manifestos denouncing the NIS is as fiery as it was during the June 1987 democratization movement.

Altogether, as many as 18,400 people have come together during the past month or so that these manifestos have been appearing. The manifestos have been written by university students, professors, young people, and professionals.

About 11,000 people were behind the manifestos issued over two months in April 1987. Those manifestos were the prologue to the democratic uprising that took place that June. The manifestos criticized president Chun Doo-hwan’s declaration on April 13, 1987, that reform of the constitution would not go forward.

One striking feature of these manifestos is that the people writing them are younger than in the past. Also, ordinary citizens are voluntarily signing the manifesto without intellectuals taking the lead.

In 1987, it was university professors who began announcing the manifestos. But this year they were inspired by a June 20 statement released by the Seoul National University Student Union (not generally regarded as an activist organization), calling for manifestos to be released.

Another major difference from 1987 is the approximately 800 high school students who have taken part in writing the political manifestos.

In addition, Catholic organizations like the Justice and Peace Committee or the Association for Justice were not involved in the manifestos released by the priests from the Busan Diocese, as they had been in 1987.

Instead, this manifesto was created over four days, after 121 priests spontaneously began to exchange emails and text messages on July 20.

Only four days after Pyo Chang-won, former professor at the Korean National Police University, began a campaign on Daum online cafe Agora to petition for a parliamentary investigation, he had gained 100,000 signatures and was able to submit the petition.

Some point out that, even if people are busily writing manifestos, the number of citizens who have actually taken to the streets to raise their voices has decreased. The answer is that changes in the political and social situation must be taken into account.

“Back in 1987, the government repressed the citizens using severe physical violence, but today there are more media and political parties that represent a space for public debate. There are an increasing number of ways to make oneself heard without protesting in public,” said Lee Tae-ho, secretary general for People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD).

“The people are waiting to see what happens. If these problems are not solved through public debate, the people will make themselves heard through whatever measures that requires,” Lee said.

“Even now, citizens keep coming out to the public squares every weekend,” said Jang Dae-hyeon, chair of the executive committee for the Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement. “Judging from the amount of interest that they are showing even though this issues doesn’t affect their lives directly, I think that we could see a huge outburst of rage depending on what happens with the parliamentary investigation [into the NIS’s political interference].”


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