Ministry moves to act on anti-state organizations

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Ministry moves to act on anti-state organizations

The Justice Ministry said on Wednesday that it will come up with measures to enable authorities to shut down organizations defined as anti-state or pro-North Korea.

In a report to President Park Geun-hye regarding its yearly plans, the Justice Ministry outlined its push for heightened authority, stating that it will come up with legal measures for prosecutors to disband civic groups accused of engaging in activities that benefit the enemy, which are therefore anti-state.

Currently, five of 13 organizations that it defines as “associations that benefit the enemy” remain intact because there is no legal authority to force them to shut down.

Under the National Security Law, people or groups that praise the North Korean regime or meet North Korean officials without government approval can be prosecuted, as such acts are considered potentially harmful to the country’s safety.

Groups engaged in what are considered activities friendly to North Korea - which could include distributing books authored by North Korean founder Kim Il Sung or expressing public support for the Pyongyang regime - can be designated anti-state organizations.

Officials have been unable to order the accused organizations to close due to the absence of that authority, though it is expected that the ministry will propose to amend parts of the National Security Law to change that.

The ministry’s move follows a Constitutional Court decision last December to dismantle the minority leftist Unified Progressive Party after it was ruled to have put national security at risk by embracing the socialist ideas supported by the North Korean regime, which is defined as an enemy state in the 2014 Defense White Paper by the Ministry of National Defense.

The latest case concerning the National Security Law concerned Shin Eun-mi, a Korean-American who wrote a book about her travels to Pyongyang. She was accused of praising North Korea and deported to the United States earlier this month. Shin is banned from returning for five years. But though the ministry submitted its proposal to President Park, it is far from clear whether the opposition will let allow it to make it through the National Assembly.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has long held reservations about the security law, while some liberal groups have criticized it, citing its potential to violate of freedom of expression and persecute opposition groups.

Korea’s National Security Law has been in effect since 1948.

Military governments in the past used the legislation as an easy tool to crush opposition political groups and lawmakers in the name of protecting national security. The former Roh Moo-hyun government made it its policy objective to repeal the 67-year-old National Security Law but was thwarted in the face of strong objection from conservatives.

The Justice Ministry added on Wednesday that it will work with the Ministry of Education to outline curriculum for elementary schools on the importance of protecting the values of South Korea’s democratic Constitution.


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