Support to RO-led groups under fire

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Support to RO-led groups under fire

The Ministry of Health and Welfare and several local governments in Gyeonggi Province are under fire for allegedly mismanaging the province’s public organizations, which are led by members of the pro-Pyongyang Revolutionary Organization, or RO. Some of the group’s projects received financial support from local governments in the province but were engaged in political activities that are circumscribed under law and regulation. After complaints by residents, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration looked into the matter and found that no action had been taken despite five months of citizen complaints.

The ministry cited the Suwon Self-Support Community Center as an example. The center’s job is to support people receiving government welfare; it received 1.7 billion won ($1.6 million) from the city government this year. But this center also urged its clients to join the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) and demanded that workers at the center make donations to the party.

Lee Sang-ho, an adviser to the Gyeonggi Progressive Alliance who was detained in August after being accused of conspiring to overthrow the government, won a contract to operate the center from the Welfare Ministry in Sept. 2011. Several complaints reporting its political activity were sent to the Welfare Ministry in March, but no action was taken. The center is currently managed by Lee Mi-young, a local official of the UPP’s Suwon branch.

Under the law, public organizations receiving more than 1 billion won in support from the government should be designated as “public-service related organizations,” but two such groups in Suwon, including the center and both managed by UPP members, are not listed in that category. Such a designation triggers a ban on all political activity. In all, 824 organizations are included in that category nationwide, the Security Ministry said.

A spokesman added, “We will continue to check if we are missing any others.”

In a related development, prosecutors investigating the alleged revolutionary conspiracy have asked three Gyeonggi city governments - Suwon, Hanam and Seongnam - to hand over documents recording the details of financial support they have given to organizations led by RO members. Those investigations are independent of the funding-political activity issue the Security Ministry is concerned about.

The Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office confirmed to the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday that they had asked the Hanam city government to hand over such records regarding support to 12 public organizations operating there.

The 12 groups include “Hanam Agenda 21,” an environmental organization established in 2010 once led by Kim Geun-rae, the deputy head of UPP’s Gyeonggi chapter. Kim is now detained for his involvement in the alleged rebellion plot. The city government has been supplying about 170 million won per year for its work.


BY SHIM SAE-ROM, CHOI MO-RAN [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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