Court drops some charges in security case

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Court drops some charges in security case

The Seoul Central District Court yesterday partially overturned an earlier guilty verdict in the case of a South Korean man who visited Pyongyang illegally and paid respects to the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, who is embalmed in a mausoleum at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.

The earlier verdict and sentence would have sent a 54-year-old man surnamed Cho to prison for two years followed by three years of probation for violating the National Security Act, but acting on an appeal for a rehearing, the same court shortened the sentence to 18 months in prison and three years of probation and dropped some of the charges against him. The judge ruled that Cho was not guilty of visiting the mausoleum with the intent to support North Korean ideology but only as a matter of etiquette.

In 1992, Cho began to support Lee In-mo, a long-term North Korean “unconverted prisoner” held in South Korea for his failure to recant his support of North Korean ideology, the court noted in its first decision. Lee had spent 34 years in prison in the South for refusing to renounce his communist ideology when he was repatriated to the North in March 1993 as a conciliatory gesture by former President Kim Young-sam, marking a departure from the hard-line anti-North Korea policies of previous administrations. Lee died a hero in the North in 2007 at the age of 89.

In 1993, Cho heard that Lee, in the North, had said he wanted to meet with his long-time supporter. In 1995, by traveling through Germany, Japan and China, Cho entered North Korea illegally under South Korean law. He remained in North Korea for a month and participated in several government-sponsored events.

After his trip, he obtained political asylum in Germany, where he stayed until December 2012 before returning to meet his family in South Korea. He was arrested and detained when he arrived.


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