U.S. organization eyes treason case

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U.S. organization eyes treason case

The Carter Center, a non-profit organization founded by and named after former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, sent a statement to South Korea’s Supreme Court expressing its concern over a pending case regarding Lee Seok-ki, a former National Assembly member convicted of inciting others to revolt against the state.

In the statement, the center expressed its cautious opposition to the highest court over convicting Lee of national rebellion, in violation of National Security Law.

The law was “established during the pre-1987 era of autocratic military rule,” it added, and therefore its application would “contradict both the Republic of Korea’s international human rights treaty obligations and the nation’s global reputation as a highly successful prosperous democracy.”

In what could be understood as its opposition to Seoul’s use of anti-North Korea laws in convicting those accused of being Pyongyang sympathizers, the non-profit organization said it “believes all nations are capable of protecting their national security while remaining faithful to their commitments under international human rights law.”

Former President Carter, who served in office from 1977 to 1981, remarked in the statement, “If Korea is to extend its essential role as a human rights leader in Asian and world affairs, there should be a fully transparent democratic debate open to all Korean citizens about current and potential risks to human rights under the terms of the National Security Law.”

The Atlanta-based center’s statement regarding the disgraced lawmaker was released on Dec. 18, a day before the Constitutional Court sided with the Park Geun-hye government in its ruling that effectively disbanded the minor leftist Unified Progressive Party (UPP) for pursuing North Korean ideology and putting national security at risk.

The court also stripped the accused party’s five lawmakers of their parliamentary seats, including Lee, who was a prominent UPP member.

Established in 1948, the country’s National Security Law forbids South Koreans from contacting North Koreans without government approval or posting materials supportive of the reclusive Communist regime.

In its latest Defense White Paper, to be published next year by the Ministry of National Defense, South Korea decided to maintain its position that the North Korean regime and its military are the nation’s “primary enemies.”

The 52-year-old former UPP lawmaker is appealing his conviction by a High Court in June that found him guilty of inciting members of the underground Revolutionary Organization (RO) within the UPP to instigate rebellion in the case of war with North Korea by destroying key infrastructure and facilities, such as telecom utilities.

The appellate court sentenced him to nine years in prison. Lee appealed the ruling and his case is pending a Supreme Court’s decision, which is expected to be made sometime next month.

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

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