[OUTLOOK]Security act must be top issue

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[OUTLOOK]Security act must be top issue

We tend to think that practicing “politics of co-existence” means putting politically sensitive issues aside. However, that is not always the case.
One good example is the National Security Act. If we pretend not to see the issues at hand, we will only be burying our heads in the sand as strife increases and “politics of co-existence” become non-existent.
We all agree that the existing National Security Act is outdated and that it must go. We just need to reach an agreement on the process of getting rid of this law.
Not being a legal expert, I do not intend to discuss the legality concerning the provisions of this act. However, anyone can see that the National Security Act, when approached from a strictly legal point of view, is a flawed law.
Laws should not be too vague or comprehensive lest they give too much discretion to the authorities in doling out punishment. Unfortunately, the National Security Act is just that.
Moreover, with the mood of reconciliation settling over the Korean Peninsula and the increase of civilian exchanges between the two Koreas, numerous people could theoretically be accused of “providing convenience to” or “praising and sympathizing with” North Koreans. At this rate, we will find an overwhelming number of “criminals” in our society.
We are impeding reconciliation with North Korea, making unwitting criminals out of our citizens and compromising our desire to be treated as a top-tier nation in the international society by holding on to the National Security Act.
Survey results show the majority of the 17th National Assembly favors either revising or abolishing the National Security Act. This includes many legislators of the conservative Grand National Party.
But it remains uncertain as to when the Assembly will start tackling the issue. Much depends on the governing party. Regrettably, we are hearing rumors that Uri Party leaders have decided the issue a “flexible” reform task rather than a top-priority one.
Perhaps the Uri Party has decided the issue is not so urgent now that many GNP members are in favor of the idea. If that is the case, the Uri Party is being irresponsible.
There is a looming possibility that the partisan number of seats in the National Assembly will change as the result of several ongoing election law violations trials. Public sentiments are fickle and the government party leadership might find out that it has lost its chance.
The National Security Act must not be put on the shelf again. The Roh Moo-hyun administration and the 17th National Assembly should see that this could be their one historical achievement.
The National Security Act is not a “flexible” issue. It is an urgent task that must be pursued with all due promptness. Personally, I am for the total abolition of the act rather than a revision, but that is a decision for the legislators.
At the very least, we should get rid of the core injurious provisions. While there will be different opinions on just what these provisions are, there are some obvious grounds for consensus, such as the relatively light offenses of “praising, sympathizing with and advertising” North Korea and the definition of North Korea as an anti-state entity.
These light offenses are, in fact, what makes the National Security Act so tyrannical, and by getting rid of them, we pave the way toward completely eliminating the law. Flexibility might be exercised in the process, but the revision or abolition of the act itself is an urgent task above and beyond the logic of “politics of co-existence.”

* The writer is an honorary professor at Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Paik Nak-chung
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