Keeping tabs on sympathizers

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Keeping tabs on sympathizers

The hijacking of Japan Airlines flight 351 in March 1970 shows the extreme measures people are capable of resorting to when blinded by ideology. Nine members of the Japanese Communist League Red Army faction hijacked a passenger jet that left Tokyo bound for Fukuoka in what is now commonly referred to as the “Yodo-go hijacking.”

The terrorists released the 120 passengers in the Japanese city of Fukuoka and Seoul before proceeding to Pyongyang, where they had been offered asylum. The Red Army claimed they were attempting to overthrow the Japanese government and start a revolution.

With a Korean Air pilot now being questioned by authorities on suspicion of possibly sympathizing with the North, South Koreans have found themselves reminded of the event 40 years ago and are questioning just how safe they are when they take to the skies. The pilot, who is in his mid-40s, posted 60 articles and video clips on a site that was masquerading as a science blog and used this as a pretext to praise North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the communist regime.

The authorities requested that the airline immediately suspend him from flying to guarantee the safety of passengers.

We now have to fear for the safety of passengers whenever they get on a plane as the pilot may head to North Korea at his discretion at any time with all the passengers on board. The pilot turned out to be a member of a pro-North Korea Internet Web site run by a group called Cyber Command for National Defense. It is not a coincidence that the blog operator was the same person who praised Kim Jong-il during a recent trial in Seoul.

The group’s 6,500 registered members cover a cross-spectrum of society, with about 70 making up the core group. This core includes an official from the Military Manpower Administration, a lawyer, a public servant at Korea Rail, home-visiting teachers, employees of large corporations and college students. They are also being questioned.

While freedom of expression and belief must be respected, Korea cannot see its society turn into a breeding ground for North Korea loyalists. We should not confuse liberty with a license to jeopardize democracy. Instead of concluding that authorities are using the spectre of North Korea to serve their own ends ahead of upcoming mayoral, general and presidential elections, it is important to keep the North Korean threat in perspective.

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