Revise the National Security Law

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Revise the National Security Law

There are signs that the controversy over the revision of the National Security Law will be further entangled. Since the amendment bills, separately submitted by the ruling party and the opposition, were automatically discarded in the previous National Assembly, the current Assembly has yet to introduce an amendment bill. The Millennium Democratic Party, which used to be most vocal about the issue, has failed to come up with a draft due to conservative voices in the party. The United Liberal Democrats, a partner in the coalition government, has made its stance clear that it has no intention of going along with the ruling party when it comes to the revision of the National Security Law. The Grand National Party used to advocate changing some problematic clauses, but now it is firm on its opposition to any revision.

An odd picture is unfolding; the ULD and the GNP are in agreement on the matter of the National Security Law.

It is our opinion that the National Security Law should be amended and its discussion should begin as soon as possible in the legislature. Some argue that President Kim Dae-jung''s recent remark is not suitable at this juncture; he said South Korea should go ahead with the revision of the National Security Law in a humanitarian dimension even if North Korea does not change its Workers'' Party regulation stipulating the reunification in communism. In particular, conservatives worry that if the South amends the law without any evidence of the North''s change, it is tantamount to be disarmed before the enemy. Others wonder whether President Kim''s remarks on revision are the prerequisite for the visit to Seoul by the National Defense Commission chairman, Kim Jong-il.

However, the law in question fails to reflect the present inter-Korean situation in which tourists come and go to Mt. Kumgang and inter-Korean economic cooperation is in progress. The South sits across from the North in inter-Korean government talks as equal dialogue partners, and both the North and the South are members of the United Nations.

As such, Article 2 regarding the North''s unjustified claim to nationhood does not correspond to reality. In practical terms, Article 10 is all but dead; it is about not reporting other people'' pro-North Korean remarks and activities. The question is Article 7, which stipulates punishment of those "who praise, encourage or propagate the activities of the anti-state organization members or those who have received instructions from that organization, or propagating and agitating actions aiming at the state''s upheaval."

Because of the vagueness in phrasing, this article has been a legal ground for investigating a sweeping spectrum of violators. At present, 95 percent of the National Security Law violators are investigated or charged based on this article, but 90 percent of them are eventually acquitted. This article gives leeway for the abuse of power on the part of law enforcement authorities and that is why the National Security Law is an object of international criticism for infringing on human rights. Such poisonous articles should be revised. Some people argue that if they are revised, what remains of the National Security Law will be a mere husk, and the catching of spies will be impossible. However, we believe that this concern can be easily remedied by listing anti-state activities and criminal acts aiming at the state''s upheaval. Given that a majority of the Korean people are for engaging the North, it is only right that the measures necessary to usher in such a policy be examined from a positive perspective.
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