[EDITORIALS]Change before legalizationThe Ministry of Justice has decided to remove 100 names of Hanchongryun members from its wanted list to celebrate the Aug. 15 Liberation Day. Those to be removed from the list are subject to lesser charges. Many people, such as presidents of university student associations and other student leaders, are wanted by the police simply for joining Hanchongryun, a nationwide student organization often described as pro-Pyeongyang.
But the organization and families of the wanted oppose the decision. They demand that the government remove all people charged with having ties to Hanchongryun from the list. Recently, 150 Hanchongryun members and the families of the wanted held a rally near the National Police Agency building to protest any move to investigate the new leadership of the organization.
We stand by the government’s decision. Labeling students as criminals only because they joined the “pro-North Korean” organization is an enormous penalty not only for the individuals but also for the nation. But people who were involved in violence, or who initiated illegal rallies must stay on the wanted list. Although our society has undergone a major change, exempting these from their responsibility is akin to undermining a law-abiding society. The Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that, under the National Security Law, Hanchongryun is an anti-state body.
After President Roh Moo-hyun mentioned in March the possibility of legalizing Hanchongryun, the government began reviewing how to remove some students from the list of the wanted. At that time, it elected a new leader, who pledged to legitimize the group. But violence by its members disrupted a government ceremony for the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement, and talk about legalizing it has subsided.
Hanchongryun must change. The prosecution and police said the current leadership of the organization is not much different from the previous leadership, which the Supreme Court designated as a “pro-North Korean” group. What effort has there been to meet the pledge to legalize the group? It must change to conform with the law.