Leftist pastor blames Lee for ship tragedy

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Leftist pastor blames Lee for ship tragedy

A progressive South Korean pastor on an illegal visit to North Korea blamed the Lee Myung-bak administration - not Pyongyang - for the deadly sinking of the Cheonan warship, according to published reports and government sources.

“One thing is clear, that Lee Myung-bak is to blame for the incident,” the Associated Press reported Han Sang-reol said, referring to the sinking of the Cheonan warship. South Korea says the Navy corvette sank due to a North Korean torpedo attack in March, killing 46 sailors.

The AP cited video footage of Han from APTN in Pyongyang.

South Korean government sources said Han - who in the past has denied any North Korean involvement in the sinking - claimed the Lee administration began hostilities by tearing up the June 15 Joint Declaration, a 2000 peace accord, and increased tension on the peninsula with joint military drills with the United States.

President Kim Dae-jung, who signed the declaration with North leader Kim Jong-il, followed it with the Sunshine Policy to engage the North. But that policy was discredited by the revelation of cash payments to the North and abandoned by the conservative Lee administration.

Han is a representative of the Commission to Follow Through the June 15 Declaration on the Southern Part, and co-founder of the ultra-leftist Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement. He was investigated by police for organizing anti-government and anti-U.S. rallies, including the massive protest against American beef imports.

The pastor crossed the border on June 12 to attend an event in Pyongyang marking the 10th anniversary of the joint declaration, in violation of a travel ban the government imposed in response to the Cheonan’s sinking.

The sources said Seoul is considering applying the national security law, the harshest legal basis by which to punish those who “benefit” North Korea, against Han when he returns. Han said he will come back to South on Aug. 15, Liberation Day.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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