[EDITORIALS]Amend the law, not scrap it

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[EDITORIALS]Amend the law, not scrap it

The National Human Rights Commission yesterday recommended to the justice minister and the speaker of the National Assembly to abolish the National Security Act. Our society has already been showing serious confrontations over the issue of whether to revise or abolish the law. Both conservatives and progressives have been raising their voices to advocate their assertions ― abolition as a measure that “disarms the nation,” or as a step “coming closer to unification.” There is a danger that our society will be swept into the turmoil of social discord, and tension among different social forces will be heightened.
Considering the expansion of the volume of inter-Korean exchanges and the change of trends in our society, we think it is time to revise the law. Legal provisions should be changed to suit the realities and circumstances of the times. If the law does not reflect social changes, it will remain a law in name only. The law that reflects the changes will retain its power in legal enforcement. The National Security Act has its grounds of existence on the need to defend the nation from the threats of the “anti-state organization,” North Korea. And it has played its role under national division and military threats from the North.
However, the circumstances in and out of the Korean Peninsula have changed following international society’s move to a post-Cold War environment. The present level of inter-Korean relations is far more advanced than that in 1997 when the law was revised for the last time. At that time, establishment of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and reconnection of railroads between the North and the South were unimaginable. Especially, the historic inter-Korean summit meeting in 2000 showed us that there were many aspects that weren’t possible to be explained by the security law.
The possibility that some of its clauses could be abused has raised the necessity to revise it. Including Clause 7 that stipulates the crime of encouraging and praising the enemy, there are a few other clauses that are vague. In the meantime, their ambiguities were supplemented by the insertion of a clause, “acknowledging that the national survival, security and the fundamental order of free democracy are endangered.” In practice, however, there still remains ambiguity.
Under the current National Security Act, a person can be punished for carelessly speaking out, “Because of the U.S. Forces in Korea, national unification is obstructed,” or for keeping a copy of “Das Capital” by Karl Marx in his possession. Clauses like this must be revised.
The demand to abolish the law is also strong. The human rights commission’s recommendation is one. But we think it is premature to abolish the law. The exchange and cooperation between the two Koreas have been strengthened, but political and military confrontation between the two are not eased. Even now, along the military armistice line, over 1 million heavily armed troops of both sides are deployed.
The Rules and Regulations of the North Korean Workers’ Party that prescribed that the party would ultimately liberate the South and the Criminal Code that stipulates the South as the North’s “enemy” still remain intact. It is evident that North Korea is still a “force threatening the national security.”
Under the situation of sustained confrontation between the North and the South, it is not proper to close our eyes to the security side. It is desirable to abolish or revise clauses that can violate human rights or are dead letters while keeping the law. Abolishing the law itself is a matter that can be considered when inter-Korean relations develop to a stage of reconciliation and cooperation.
The crime of failing to inform on sympathizers of the enemy must be abolished. Also the crime of praising and encouraging the enemy should be described more in detail.
The clause on “assuming the title of the government” in which North Korea is defined as a de facto “anti-state organization” should be abolished. Both Koreas are members of the United Nations and the clause conflicts with the unification policy of the government that has already held a summit meeting with the North.
The law should be handled discreetly and with deep thought. Dogmatic assertions can disrupt the national opinion seriously. Therefore, the debate on the revision or abolition of the law should be made not with one eye but with both, watching the reality we are in coolheadedly.
Especially, the ruling camp should not promote it onesidedly just because it has the majority of seats in the Assembly. People who feel uneasy over our national security are also our own people.
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