[FOUNTAIN]Exhausted but powerful, a law endures

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[FOUNTAIN]Exhausted but powerful, a law endures

The law is a breath, trembling from the desires, world view and interests of the writer. Just like humans, laws are a product of hypocrisies. The National Security Law, revised seven times in its 56 years, brings back dark memories of abusing the system to defend it.
The Constitution was promulgated in July, 1948; the National Security Law was born in December of the same year, only the fifth law made by the Republic of Korea. The Criminal Code was not written until five years later. In 1949, 118,000 persons were charged with violations of the National Security Law, and 132 political parties and civil organizations were forced to dissolve because of the law.
The National Security Law was a double-edged knife, cutting off communism on one side and eradicating political opponents on the other. As time passed, the latter blade was used more commonly. Opposition parties, the media, and many innocent citizens were victimized.
The law that started with just six clauses was expanded to 40 clauses in its third revision in 1958. At the time, the Dong-a Ilbo wrote, “The new National Security Law makes it possible to punish non-communists the way it punishes communists. Unless a newspaper acts like a government organ, it will go bankrupt or be forced to close. Doesn’t it effectively undermine the Constitution of the Republic of Korea?” Soon, opposition legislators were forced out of the Assembly and the Kyunghyang Sinmun newspaper was shut down.
In 1961, the Anti-Communist Law made it a crime to hold opinions even remotely like those of communists. In 1980, the Anti-Communist Law was absorbed into the National Security Law. A decade later, the National Security Law remains powerful but has grown exhausted.
Six years ago, opponents of the law took power in Korea. When the administration turned away from the National Security Law, both of its blades became dull. It can no longer be used as a tool to eradicate political enemies, and it is ineffective to battle communism.
Now the National Security Law is on the operating table. It may die in surgery, but we still need to perform the surgery to cut off our dark history and reinforce the principles of the nation. Changing the dreadful name of the law could be one way to start.


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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