Security law violations the highest in a decade

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Security law violations the highest in a decade

During the first term of the Park Geun-hye administration, the number of people indicted for violating the National Security Law (NSL) was the highest recorded in the past decade.

Statistics released by the Supreme Court yesterday show that those indicted for violating the country’s public security act was 102 - the highest since 2003. That figure hit a record low of 29 in 2006. However, it rose again starting in 2007. Among the 102 suspects this year, 62 were convicted and 4 were acquitted. Those remaining are awaiting the court’s verdict. Although NSL indictments were at a record low in 2006, there were no acquittals that year, according to the Supreme Court. Liberals have argued that President Park is trying to consolidate her leadership by hunting down those considered pro-Pyongyang.

However, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an justified that statement, saying that supporters of North Korea do exist and to an extent that has the potential to endanger public security. In 1948, Syngman Rhee, South Korea’s first president, enacted the National Security Law when tensions were running high on the Korean Peninsula between the U.S.-backed South and the Soviet-backed North. The law - intended to prevent Communists in the country from plotting violent riots or rebellions - prohibits citizens from praising, collaborating with and spying for North Korea.

Inter-Korean relations have been strained in the past few years, particularly following the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 and Pyongyang’s third-ever nuclear test in February. Several liberal activists were arrested this year on charges that they violated the NSL through on or offline campaigns praising the North Korean regime and the Kim dynasty.

The minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, which was formerly the third-largest political party in 2012, came under fire after some of its hard-line members were accused of forming a pro-Pyongyang underground group and plotting to overthrow the South Korean government.

Representative Lee Seok-ki, a senior UPP lawmaker who was suspected of the leading the organization, was arrested for allegedly violating the National Security Law. He and other senior party lawmakers were indicted in September on charges that they conspired to overthrow the government. A verdict in the trial is expected by next spring.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joonang.co.kr]

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