[VIEWPOINT]Restraining the North

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[VIEWPOINT]Restraining the North

The National Human Rights Commission’s recommendation to abolish the National Security Law reflects the rising social atmosphere that makes light of our national security. The United States views the situation on the Korean Peninsula as still highly risky.
While the United States, far beyond the Pacific Ocean, is worried about our security, we who live in this land seem to be just watching the fire across the river. In addition, we are very busy disintegrating the security device that has sustained our society so far.
The decision of the commission was also made without considering the security law’s positive function of maintaining security. The commission decided to recommend that the security law be abolished because it is a bad law, given the cases of human rights infringement in the past. But in this process, the commission overlooked the fact that the human rights infringement issue of the security law basically derived from the political situation and law implementation process at that time.
Disputes over the violation of human rights can happen anytime, even when an ordinary criminal law is enforced without taking human rights into account. Furthermore, the cases of misuse of the security law are largely what occurred during the military dictatorships about 10 years ago. No cases of dispute over human rights infringements related to this law have been reported since then, from the Kim Young-sam administration to the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. This proves, to the contrary, that the problem is not the security law itself but the regime that abused it politically.
The significance of the National Security Law should not be found only in the law’s functional dimension of searching out communist spies. The law has undertaken a momentous role in national security, which goes far beyond the dimension of criminal law.
The security law has actually been part of our strategic package to control North Korea. If our military’s defense capability and U.S. forces in Korea have held back North Korea’s military move toward South Korea, the National Security Law has restrained North Korean spies from invading South Korea.
The essence of the incident of Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korea, a current issue in North Korean and Japanese diplomatic relations, lies in fact in North Korea’s espionage operations against South Korea. To secure Japanese instructors to facilitate the infiltration of spies into South Korea, North Korea abducted Japanese residents. Our reality was that, by hook or by crook, North Korea put all its effort in carrying out spy operations against South Korea.
To counter this, many anti-communist agents have engaged in a fierce intelligence war with North Korea day and night. A legal device that supported their activities was the National Security Law.
As is already well known, there were many unreasonable incidents in this process. But it is also true that the security law has contributed a lot to making our society what it is now. The abolition of the security law would lead our society to unlatch the door of protection and invite an attack from North Korea of our own accord.
Also, it would critically aggravate our already serious insensitivity to security. Security discipline would slacken and the social value of security would weaken. North Korea’s intelligence authorities would never miss this chance. North Korea would thoroughly take advantage of this situation, when the long-wished abolition of the National Security Law comes true, as a good opportunity to “strengthen its capability to revolutionize South Korea.”
As a result, the pro-North Korean atmosphere in our society would become stronger in the name of “national cooperation,” and the anti-American movement would get even more intense. This situation would accordingly weaken our general determination to protect our national security and capability to control North Korea. Because of these possibilities, the abolition of the security law is dangerous.
In the mid-1960s, Robert Kennedy said, “In preserving freedom, extremism can be a virtue.” This is to say that in defending the country, a thorough preparation to an extreme extent can be desirable.
In the light of our reality in which the threat from the North is clear, the National Security Law is not an excessive security device. It is just an essential safety device to a minimum degree. We should not commit the foolishness of disintegrating this device of our own initiative.

* The writer is a visiting professor at the University of Ulsan. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Byung-ho
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