Worshipping Kim Il Sung ruled illegal by top court

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Worshipping Kim Il Sung ruled illegal by top court

The Supreme Court overturned the partial acquittal in the case involving Jo Young-nam, a South Korean man who visited Pyongyang illegally and paid respects to late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, who is embalmed in a mausoleum at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace.

The case was sent back Wednesday to the appeals court of the Seoul Central District Court.

The court said that the judiciary should carefully consider guilt based on whether Jo’s visit to the mausoleum was beneficial to North Korea based on inter-Korean relations at the time and his activities.

“His worshipping at the palace, which symbolizes Pyongyang’s propaganda, can be interpreted as praising and propagating the North’s [ideology],” said the court. “The way in which he entered the North, his continued support of the enemy and the symbolic meaning of the palace should be taken into consideration.”

In the initial trial, Jo was sentenced to two years in prison with a stay of execution for three years for violating the National Security Law. But acting on an appeal for a retrial, the Seoul Central District Court shortened the sentence to 18 months in prison with a stay of execution for three years and dropped the charge of worshipping at the palace.

The judge in the appeals court had ruled that Jo was not guilty of visiting the mausoleum with the intent to support North Korean ideology, but only as a matter of etiquette. The prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court for the acquittal regarding Jo’s activities at Kumsusan Memorial Palace.

In 1992, Jo began to support Lee In-mo, a long-term “unconverted prisoner” from North Korea who had been held in South Korea for his failure to recant his support of North Korea’s ideology. 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. Lee died a hero at 89 years old in 2007 in North Korea.

In 1993, Jo heard that Lee, in the North, wanted to meet with his long-time supporter. In 1995, by traveling through Germany, Japan and China, Jo entered North Korea illegally. He remained there for a month.

After his trip, he obtained political asylum in Germany, where he stayed until 2012 before returning to the South. He was arrested when he arrived at Incheon International Airport on Dec. 31, 2012.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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