1977 spy convictions are overturned

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1977 spy convictions are overturned

Two South Koreans convicted of espionage for Pyongyang during the military dictatorship of Park Chung Hee have finally been acquitted 36 years after they were charged.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the ruling of an appeals court that acquitted Kim Jeong-sa, 58, and Yu Seong-sam, 59, of violating the National Security Law and the so-called emergency decree No. 9.

Declared by former president Park, father of current President Park Geun-hye, in May 1975, decree No. 9 forbids people from partaking in any political activities or criticizing the government and allows the president to shut down any media companies, expel students or dismiss government officials critical of the government.

The Constitutional Court ruled in March that three presidential decrees, Nos. 1, 2 and 9, were all unconstitutional.

Kim and Yu were friends who were born and raised in Japan. In March 1977, Kim entered Seoul National University’s Law Department and Yu entered Hanyang University’s Medical School.

Less than two months after they started their studies, South Korean intelligence agents abruptly arrested them for allegedly collecting confidential government reports for a pro-Pyongyang civic group based in Japan.

Kim and Yu were indicted on charges of violating the National Security Law in 1977 and sentenced to prison, 10 years for Kim and three and a half years for Yu. They were released in August 1979 for unknown reasons. Kim alleges that his father bribed an aide to then-President Park.

The group they were accused of assisting was called “Hanmintong,” or “an association of Koreans residing in Japan in favor of democracy and unification. The court that convicted Kim and Yu stigmatized the civic group as an “anti-state group.”

Hanmintong was created by the late president Kim Dae-jung to protest the military rule of Park along with some Koreans residing in Japan.

Based on the ruling against Kim and Yu in 1977, Kim Dae-jung was sentenced to death in 1980 for forming the group to stir up turmoil in the South.

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