Supreme Court upholds ban on praising the North

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Supreme Court upholds ban on praising the North

The Supreme Court yesterday once again ruled that praising North Korea is a violation of the National Security Law that “threatens the safety, existence and democracy of the nation.”

The court overturned a 2010 ruling by the Seoul Central District Court that acquitted a 48-year-old man surnamed Kim of violating the National Security Law in 2007 for praising former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in an e-mail.

Liberals and even some conservatives think the National Security Law’s provision criminalizing praise of North Korea violates the right to freedom of expression. The Supreme Court once again upheld it.

In January 2007, Kim, who was a South Korean businessman working in Indonesia, sent an e-mail to a North Korean spy surnamed Jang to commemorate the birthday of then-leader Kim Jong-il.

Kim said in the e-mail: “I appreciate the great leadership of Kim Jong-il and I believe his direction is leading to a way that our people can survive. I’m prepared to follow that direction. I wish our great leader Kim Jong-il good health.”

Kim also offered information on South Korean politics and its military to the Northern agent.

At the first trial, Kim was convicted of three charges - praising an anti-national group, communicating with them and aiding their activities - and sentenced to two years in jail with three years’ probation.

An appellate court dismissed the first conviction, saying sending a letter about the North Korean leader can’t be seen as a threat to national security.

The Supreme Court overruled it yesterday.

“Although the form of the message is seemingly a congratulatory message, the content is an expression of his will to support and follow the Kim Jong-il’s regime and its polices, including those on unification of the two Koreas,” the verdict read. “It is more than an ordinary greeting, and it is praising anti-national groups and people in an active and direct way.

“So we recognize a clear danger in the letter that threatens the foundation of democracy or the safety and existence of the nation,” the verdict continued. “The lower court, which didn’t recognize this point, misunderstood the National Security Law.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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