Closing arguments made in rebellion trial

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Closing arguments made in rebellion trial

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Unified Progressive Party Representative Lee Seok-ki, right in the front row, attends the last hearing of his trial with his six co-defendants yesterday at Suwon District Court. All were charged with plotting insurrection against the government. Third from the left in the front row is Lee Jung-hee, the chairwoman of the UPP, who represented the seven accused in court. [NEWS1]

During the final hearing in the trial of Representative Lee Seok-ki, prosecutors yesterday condemned the leftist lawmaker for plotting to subvert the government in the event that North Korea invades the South and called for a stern prison term, claiming his actions were unacceptable under the principles of Korea’s Constitution.

Representative Lee of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) and six other party members are all standing trial at the Suwon District Court on charges that they conspired to overthrow the government in the event of an inter-Korean conflict. Prosecutors demanded a 20-year prison term for the troubled lawmaker, claiming Lee led a clandestine group inside the UPP called the Revolutionary Organization (RO) and conspired with members during group meetings last year to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors argued that Lee and his six co-defendants formed a plan to destroy key infrastructure such as an oil storage facility or telecommunications utilities in the country. The prosecutors also charged the seven defendants with praising and supporting the Kim Jong-un regime in violation of the National Security Law.

“The ultimate goal of the defendants was to realize the spread of communism [on the peninsula],” the prosecution said before three judges. “Through violent means, the defendants sought to destroy key social infrastructure, which poses a grave threat to the national foundation.”

The prosecution acknowledged that there were divisive political views over the case, but claimed that the charges against the defendants transcended political differences.

“Under the values of our Constitution, [acts committed by the defendants] should never be accepted,” the prosecutors stated, adding that the accused have not shown any sign of remorse nor acknowledged the charges.

“Despite his stature as a National Assembly member, Lee disregarded the principles of the Constitution and led talks about staging a rebellion in accordance with North Korea’s policy directives on the South,” one of the prosecutors said in the closing arguments.

The prosecutor also pointed out that Lee had demanded classified military information from the Ministry of National Defense using his lawmaker status.

On top of a 20-year prison term, the prosecution also demanded that Lee be stripped of his voting rights for 10 years upon his release from prison.

They called for 15-year prison terms for five of the defendants: Kim Hong-yeol, director of the UPP’s Gyeonggi chapter; Hong Soon-seok, the deputy head of the UPP’s Gyeonggi chapter; Kim Keun-rae, co-deputy head of the UPP’s Gyeonggi chapter; Lee Sang-ho, an adviser to the Gyeonggi Progressive Alliance; and Cho Yang-won, head of the Social Trend Research Institute.

The prosecution requested a 10-year sentence for Han Dong-geun, the former director of the UPP’s Suwon chapter.

In defense, the legal team representing the accused largely reiterated its arguments from previous hearings.

“The defendants neither conspired to wage a revolt against the state nor have they rallied anyone to prepare for a ‘decisive moment’ for revolution,” a lawyer for the defense team argued before the judges.

The legal team for the UPP also contended that the prosecution did not present any concrete evidence to support their claim that the RO was an antistate organization.

Prior to yesterday’s hearing, the Suwon court has had 43 hearings over a three-month period. During those trials, the 52-year-old UPP lawmaker and the defense team have steadfastly claimed that the RO was merely a private group made up of members and supporters of the UPP who have no affiliation to North Korea.

In the aftermath of the arrests of Lee and six other UPP members, the Park Geun-hye government petitioned the Constitutional Court to dissolve the leftist party last November, an unprecedented move in Korea’s history.

The first public hearing on the petition was held last Tuesday, pitting Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an, who represented the Park administration, against Chairwoman Lee Jung-hee of the UPP in the court, an event that drew widespread media attention.

The charges against Lee and other UPP members have ignited debates since last year over the issue of pro-North factions in the South, with conservatives claiming they represent a serious threat to the South’s democracy. Liberals, on the other hand, have argued that the Park government is using the idea of pro-North factions as a smoke screen to turn pubic attention from state agencies’ alleged meddling in the 2012 presidential elections and to reinforce its authority.

The case surrounding Representative Lee and the minority leftist party has illustrated tensions regarding North Korea and those with Communist sympathies. Further, it has shown that in the South, where sensitivities still run high, support for Pyongyang remains politically and emotionally divisive.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on Feb. 17.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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