[EDITORIALS]Student fugitivesThe new government seems to be thinking of lifting the ban on the dissident student umbrella organization Federation of All Korean University Students, Hanchongnyon in Korean, and canceling the indictments of those on the wanted list. Moon Jae-in, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, met family members of those on the list some days ago and promised to conclude the matter by the end of May. Then on Monday President Roh Moo-hyun raised the issue officially at a meeting of presidential secretaries and advisers. There is speculation that the government will consider including them in the presidential special pardon scheduled to be announced in commemoration of President Roh’s inauguration. We feel anxious at the harsh reality in which hundreds of youths are hiding as wanted criminals, and would like to see things settled. But the solution should come through proper legal procedures to promote national unity.
Since Hanchongnyon was ruled an organization benefiting the enemy by the courts in 1998, 780 leader of the organization have been arrested and 300 others are wanted by the police; most are hiding on or near university campuses. Their health is deteriorating because of their long lives in hiding, and their family members are subject to police surveillance. Recently, a television station broadcast footage showing some of them undergoing a health checkup in a university auditorium. As Mr. Moon said, “Putting so many students on the wanted list is a shameful display to the world.” It is unreasonable to automatically classify leaders of student associations under Hanchongnyon as members of the group just because students many years ago chose to affiliate those groups with the federation.
But those on the list are lawbreakers. They should surrender voluntarily and submit to legal procedures. At present, if a fugitive surrenders and withdraws from the federation in writing, the police cancel the indictment. But despite that leniency, the students insist on a political solution and defy the National Security Law. That is a problem; no group is above the law. Hanchongnyon should unveil a new look to win more public support.