Court acquits teacher in a national security case

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Court acquits teacher in a national security case

A local court yesterday acquitted a former schoolteacher who was indicted for violating national security laws by taking his students to a memorial event remembering North and South Korean martyrs for unification and creating and distributing pro-North Korea materials banned by the South Korean government.

The memorial was organized by communists who had served prison terms in South Korea for espionage.

The schoolteacher involved, Kim Hyeong-cheol, took 180 students and their parents to meet the communists at a local youth training center in Sunchang, North Jeolla, in May 2005.

Jin Hyeon-min, the judge of the Jeonju District Court who presided over the trial, said though the court found that Kim, 51, participated in the event, the event did not cause harm.

“The purpose of the event was to explain about the justification of the June 15 Joint Declaration and that does not do any harm in practice to free democracy,” read the judge’s verdict.

“The defendant’s [pro-North Korea] notes [distributed at the event] don’t seem to deny the legitimacy of the South Korean government and the fundamental order of free democracy. There’s no proof that he created and distributed the materials with the intention to praise, promote and agree with North Korean activities,” the judge said.

Kim graduated from Chonbuk National University and became a teacher in 1999. He was teaching at Kwanchon Middle School in Imsil, North Jeolla, when he took his students and their parents to the event.

He had served as executive unification member of the North Jeolla chapter of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union and director general for teachers based in the North Jeolla region who support reunification.

His students recited letters they wrote to communists wishing for unification of the two Koreas.

Some letters contained messages calling on the South Korean government to repeal its national security law that bans sending letters to North Korea.

The attendees also shouted the slogan, “Let’s oust outside powers who incite war-threats and reunite the divided Korean Peninsula with the hands of the two Koreas.” The event was attended by 300 people.

Kim was indicted in January 2008 for violating national security laws. Prosecutors had sought a four-year prison sentence. They also asked that Kim surrender his teaching license for four years.

Last January Kim quit his job at another high school in Gunsan, North Jeolla, to run for a Wansan District lawmaker’s seat in the election.

“It’s a glory full of scars,” Kim said of the court ruling. “The ruling seems to be a bit late considering many students and their parents have suffered from this, but I’m relieved. I’ll continue to support the unification movement.”

By Kim Mi-ju []

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