A balanced rulingThe Supreme Court has concluded that even though Lee Seok-ki, former lawmaker of the far-left Unified Progressive Party (UPP), instigated a rebellion against the state, it fell short of constituting a conspiracy to overthrow the government. In a final ruling handed down 15 months after Lee’s case was brought to court, the nation’s highest court upheld an appellate court’s ruling that sentenced Lee to nine years in prison and a seven-year revocation of his civic right to be lawmaker on charges of plotting a rebellion and inciting subversion of state, as well as violating the National Security Law. A lower court had sentenced him to 12 years in prison and a seven-year suspension of civic rights after finding him guilty of plotting and inciting a rebellion, as well as violating the National Security Law.
The Supreme Court ruled that though Lee urged participants at a secret meeting to carry out concrete actions, including the destruction of state infrastructure, to bring revolution to South Korea after a war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, he is not guilty of rebellion conspiracy because the true existence of the alleged Revolutionary Organization has not been fully proven and because there was weak evidence on the conspiracy charge.
In an earlier ruling, the Constitutional Court accepted the Ministry of Justice’s lawsuit against the UPP and ruled that the leftist party be dismantled and its five lawmakers lose their seats in the National Assembly. The Supreme Court’s ruling is somewhat contradictory to the Constitutional Court’s decision, which regarded Lee’s activities as a de facto conspiracy of a rebellion.
But the core of the issue has not changed because the highest court, too, made it clear that Lee as an active lawmaker instigated a rebellion by urging his colleagues to destroy the state’s telecommunication and oil refining facilities to subvert the state, and that constitutes an unpardonable crime. The court’s sentencing him to as long as nine years in prison, albeit three years shorter than in the first trial, testifies to the gravity of the danger.
It is not desirable that the judgment triggers another round of conflict between liberal and conservative forces in our society. The highest court sent us a balanced message that we must not embrace any forces threatening the very foundation of our democracy. But at the same time, judgments must be made based on the law and evidence. We should be wary of extremely conservative voices that condemn healthy liberal forces. We must safeguard the liberal democracy and laws of our society by fully accepting the Supreme Court’s decision.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 23, Page 30