Geopolitics

Leader Of Turkey’s Bloody 1980 Coup Finally Faces Prosecutors: “I Would Do It Again”

Former Turkish leader Kenan Evren, 93, defiantly tells a special prosecutor he had no choice but to oust the civilian government in 1980. He dismisses accusations about post-coup repression as pure “political rhetoric.”

Evran's role has long been the subject of debate (Sbrac)
Evran's role has long been the subject of debate (Sbrac)
Nurettin Kurt

ANKARA – It took 31 years, but the leaders of Turkey's bloody Sept. 12, 1980 coup d'etat are finally facing official interrogation by authorities. Thousands of people, mostly leftists, were arbitrarily imprisoned, tortured and killed in the aftermath. Until now, the leaders have largely skirted any official questioning or condemnation.

Special Prosecutor Huseyin Gorusen, who is leading the investigation into the infamous overthrow of the civilian government, questioned the coup's leader, former president and military chief of staff Kenan Evren, 93. Gorusen, who was 12 years old at the time of the coup, asked a series of questions during the two-and-a-half hour encounter in Mr. Evren's living quarters at the Central Officers Complex in Ankara.. The former president was accompanied by his lawyer, Nihat Ozgun, and was occasionally attended to by a healthcare worker. Ozgun said his client responded to 12 questions by the prosecutor. "He (Evren) had no untoward reaction," the lawyer said. "In fact he was very calm as he responded to the questions."

Below are excerpts from Gorusen's questions and responses from former President Evren:

Question: Why did you stage the coup?
Answer: The country was in a very bad state. The police had been split into two camps. Former Prime Minister Nihat Erim and Admiral Kemal Kayacan had been killed (Erim was killed in 1980 and Admiral Kayacan in 1992). The country was at a dead end. We waited and waited, but we were eventually forced to take this action. Under article No. 35 of the Turkish Military Code of Service, we were obliged to take over the country. On Dec. 27, 1979, we gave then-President Fahri Koruturk a letter regarding the national situation. Even though 19 Turkish provinces were under martial law at the time, the president was unable to end the chaos in the country. He could not end the bloodshed. The country was paralyzed, on the brink of civil war.

Q: Do you have any regrets about what you did?
No. I am not at all regretful. If I had to do it over again I would do the same. When I recall how the country was before Sept. 12, 1980 my hair stands on end. If I had authority and the situation was the same as before, I would do it again.

Q: Was there international backing for you and the other generals to stage the coup?
No, there was no international backing. This was not just a decision I took alone. This was a decision made by the entire Turkish military and its leaders. We waited and waited, hoping not to take over the country. But in the end, we were forced into doing this.

Q: General Tahsin Sahinkaya returned from the United States on Sept. 11, 1980. Did General Sahinkaya go to the States to ask for permission for this coup?
Sahinkaya's U.S. trip was for a meeting of NATO commanders. In fact, before the trip General Sahinkaya said to me, "Let me cancel the trip." However, I ordered General Sahinkaya to go on the trip saying, "Go, but return on the 11th of September." He returned on Sept. 11, 1980. He never went to get any sort of permission from the Americans.

Q: How is it that all the anarchy ended in just one day on Sept. 12, 1980?
What you are saying is just political rhetoric, later espoused by (deposed former prime minister) Suleyman Demirel. It was forbidden to go out onto the streets on Sept. 12. This continued for some time. During that time we were able to reach out to all secret service units and the sources of their information. Within six or seven months, the chaos had ended. What you are suggesting is just political hearsay, bandied about by politicians after 1980.

photo - Sbrac

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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