[EDITORIALS]Confusing ruling on SongThe Seoul High Court reversed a lower court decision imposing a seven-year prison term on Song Du-yul, a Korean-German sociologist, instead giving him a three-year suspended sentence with five years’ probation.
That decision by the appeals court prompted controversy because it cleared Mr. Song of the substantial charge that he was a Politburo member of the North Korean Workers’ Party, a charge of which he was convicted in the original trial.
Whether he should be acknowledged as a Politburo member or not is to be determined by the evidence, and doing so is up to the court. Thus, there will be no argument about the ruling.
As shown by the verdict, to convict someone requires hard proof that leaves judges without a single doubt. When the evidence is not of such a caliber, judges are required to make a decision favoring the defendant even though they have some degree of doubt.
But the lower court convicted Mr. Song according to the evidence, including the statement of Hwang Jang-yop. We are confused about the different court rulings.
The high court acknowledged that Mr. Song’s academic work favors the North Korean political system but said that it does not threaten the existence and the fundamental liberal democratic order of South Korea.
But the standard on how much bias must be shown in such writings in order to convict someone is ambiguous. It seems that now it will be difficult for those who produce writings biased toward North Korea to be punished.
Another dispute concerning the ruling is that Mr. Song was found innocent of the charge that he attended the funeral of the North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in Pyeongyang in 1994.
The court said Mr. Song’s attendance was to participate in ceremonies only and it did not threaten the existence and fundamental order of South Korea.
But the public is confused. The high court, at the same time, found Mr. Song guilty on the charge that he visited the North on five occasions between 1991 and 1994 and spoke with Kim Il Sung.
It is not desirable for ideological disputes to become widespread with this case.
An ultimate decision by the Supreme Court is still forthcoming. That court should hasten to make a quick decision. Until then, Mr. Song should remain cautious as well.