KOREA: Kang case rekindles debate on National Security Law
Sociology professor Kang Jeong-koo's article on Korean War sparks debate over necessity of security law
The Korea Herald
Monday, October 17, 2005
By Cho Chung-un
The investigation of Kang Jeong-koo, a sociology professor accused of allegedly breaking the National Security Law, is expected to deepen political divisions over the law which has been cited as a relic of the Cold War and military dictatorships.
Kang's controversial comments on the 1950-53 Korean War have rekindled a debate on whether to abolish or keep the law.
Kang posted an article on the internet which said that the North's invasion of the South in 1950 was an attempt to reunify the Koreas and that U.S. intervention hampered reunification.
He also said U.S General Douglas MacArthur was a war criminal because his actions made Korea's civil war last for three years.
Kang, 60, a sociology professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, was previously arrested in 2001 on charges of violating the NSL when he visited Mankyongdae, the birthplace of North Korea's founding leader Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang, and wrote a controversial message which said "let's achieve the great task of national unification by cherishing the spirit of Mankyongdae."
The National Security Law is a 25-article statute that allows pro-North Korean activities to be punished. The law stipulates that the formation of and admission to enemy-benefiting bodies, which prevents any acts praising the enemy. Violators of the law are subject to harsh punishment.
The law earned notoriety when past military dictatorships punished many pro-democracy activists under charges based on it. Since the democratization in the late 1980s, however, no one of any political importance has been charged under the NSL law.
The ruling and opposition parties have been opposed over the fate of the NSL. The ruling Uri, as part of its four reform bills, has been calling for scrapping the security law, which was abused by military regimes in the past. The GNP argues the law is still needed to protect national security, and revision is sufficient to prevent abuse of the law.
Although the drive to pass the bills has been deterred by the opposition party, Uri is set to press ahead with its stalled reform bills. The party is planning to create another team to focus on the repeal of anticommunist law.
The widespread movements to abolish the law were brought by the historic inter-Korean summit talks in 2000. Public sentiment towards North Korea has dramatically changed since then and the adversarial postures between the two Koreas have been softened.
Since then, progressive groups across the nation, including scholars and lawmakers, called for abolition of the security law claiming that the law is a relic of the Cold War era which runs against the ongoing efforts to build trust and understanding between the two Koreas.
However, the main opposition GNP is on a mission to keep the law alive, citing the nation's security and the possibility of the outbreak of war. GNP, in alliance with various groups, including the Korean Veterans Association and the Anticommunist League, has launched the nationwide campaign to stop Uri's move to push the reform bill.
President accepts chief prosecutor's resignation
By Lee Joo-hee
President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday accepted the resignation of the top prosecutor who was protesting the justice minister's order not to arrest a leftist university professor for allegedly making pro-North Korean comments.
Kim Jong-bin, who took the helm of the prosecution in April, will resign after fulfilling just six months of his two-year tenure amid a whirlwind of controversy over the prosecution's investigative independence.
The resignation is likely to add fuel to growing political strife between the ruling and opposition parties over whether Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae should be ousted to take responsibility for the confusion.
By proving the prosecution's deep-running bitterness towards the government and echoing the uproar of protests against Chun's directive among the rank-and-file prosecutors, Kim's resignation is likely to aggravate the mayhem in the judicial circle.
Chun last Wednesday ordered prosecutors not to arrest sociology Professor Kang Jeong-koo for his alleged pro-North remarks posted on the internet, citing the case was not grave enough for an apprehension.
It was the first time for a justice minister in Korea to exercise the right to give directives on a specific case, a move that is legally protected but has never been used due to concerns over the prosecution's autonomy in investigations.
Kang, 60, wrote an article in July that said "the Korean War was part of a crusade by North Korea to reunify the two Koreas" and that "the United States is the archenemy, not a benefactor" of the South.
Following the prosecution's reluctant acceptance of Chun's unprecedented directive on Saturday, police are set to continue looking into Kang's case without an arrest this week.
Since last month, police have been investigating whether Kang's remarks violated the National Security Law since before it transferred the case to prosecutors, recommending that Kang be apprehended as his comments are tantamount to a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison.
The main opposition Grand National Party gathered to decide whether to go ahead with its warning last week to seek a no-confidence vote against Minister Chun.
The party is adding momentum to its charge against the administration and the ruling party for "tainting the nation's ideology" by encouraging the hands of radical leftists.
While prevalent conservatives of the party argued the party must immediately seek to oust the former ruling party floor leader, the leadership remained more cautious.
GNP Rep. Kim Jae-won, a former prosecutor, said, "As the prosecutor-general has stepped down, it is also right for the minister to do the same."
But Kim Moo-sung, the secretary-general of the party, said, "If we submit the dismissal vote, attention is bound to turn to whether the National Assembly will pass it or not, thereby effectively overshadowing the violation of the prosecution's independence or the matter of Professor Kang."
The GNP suffered embarrassment earlier this year when it attempted to oust Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung over a shooting rampage that killed eight soldiers, only to be overthrown at the parliament vote.
The GNP needs cooperation from other opposition parties to pass any vote.
In the 299-member parliament, the Uri Party has 144 seats, the GNP 123, the Millennium Democratic Party 11, the Democratic Labor Party nine, and the United Liberal Democrats and independents eight seats.
The ruling Uri Party was resolute on voting down the dismissal vote if presented at the Assembly.
"The prosecution has accepted the order that was legally executed by the justice minister," Uri floor leader Chung Sye-kyun said.
Chung criticized the GNP for "abusing the case to stir an ideological debate" in an attempt to gain an upper hand in the upcoming Oct. 26 by-elections.
Date Posted: 10/17/2005