Gov’t goes after critical civic group

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Gov’t goes after critical civic group

Seoul prosecutors have started an investigation of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy for breach of national security after the civic group sent a letter to the UN Security Council questioning the veracity of the government’s investigation into the cause of the sinking of the naval ship Cheonan.

The Seoul-based liberal civic group, in a June 10 letter, said the government’s conclusions on the cause of the fatal incident had “many loopholes” and “lacks convincing rationale.” Seoul diplomats have been working hard to convince the UN Security Council that Pyongyang attacked the Cheonan with a torpedo, leaving 46 sailors dead, and to make the council condemn North Korea.

According to Seoul prosecutors, they are planning to summon Lee Tae-ho, a senior official at the PSPD who played a key role in the production of the letter, and Ko Gap-woo, another civic activist who played a role.

“It will be hard to punish them if they merely expressed their own opinions as civic activists,” said one prosecutor who asked for anonymity. “But if they intentionally circulated false information, doing so can amount to defamation [against the investigators of the civilian-military joint investigative team].”

The prosecutors said they would also look into whether the activists had any intention to “benefit anti-state organizations,” meaning they had an intention to aid North Korea, or whether their actions disrupted the government’s diplomacy.

The PSPD’s letter drew intense ire from families of the sailors killed in the March 26 sinking. One of them was Yoon Chung-ja, a 67-year-old mother who lost her youngest son, Min Pyeong-gi, a senior chief petty officer. She visited the PSPD office yesterday to meet Lee.

“If you don’t know the full truth why did you send the letter to a foreign country?” she tearfully asked. “Why did you go to people outside our country when the foreign countries were trying to help us?”

Lee said he initially believed North Korea was behind the incident, but the government’s actions since gave him doubts.

“I’m not trying to side with the North .?.?. but the government is concealing so much and the Defense Ministry is changing its story every day, even reporting false information to the Board of Audit.”

In response, Yoon urged Lee and the PSPD to write to the South Korean government and the audit board instead of international organizations or foreign countries. She knelt on the floor, telling Lee to “act responsibly and please stop this.”

On June 14, Yoon donated 100 million won ($82,400) to the Blue House, asking the government to use the money to “punish those invading our land and sea.”


By Lee Chul-jae, Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]

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