[Editorial] An umbrella union that went too far

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[Editorial] An umbrella union that went too far

The suspicion that former and current leaders of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) engaged in spying activities for North Korea is shocking. The Suwon District Court issued arrest warrants for four members of the militant umbrella union Tuesday for violating the National Security Act. The court reached the decision after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the National Office of Investigation jointly raided their offices and residences in January to find evidence of espionage for the North.

Some of the suspicions dumbfound us. They created an underground organization called “jisa,” which can be roughly translated as “patriots.” They sent more than 30 reports to North Korea at the order of the Pyongyang regime for several years. The reports suggest that North Korea ordered them to collect information on power transmission facilities of major infrastructure in South Korea and prepare to paralyze them.

That’s not all. The North Korean regime also ordered them to fan anti-Japanese sentiment among South Koreans, including through burning ceremonies of the Japanese flag, and help the left-wing Progressive Party, as well as support current KCTU head Yang Kyung-soo on both the internal and external fronts. A core member of KCTU is even suspected of entering the U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek and Osan in 2021 to take pictures of military facilities and equipment and transferring the information to the North. They include close-up shots of runways and Patriot missile batteries.

President Yoon Suk Yeol inspected the NIS on Feb. 24 following his visit to the Defense Counterintelligence Command of the military two days before. The rare move could reflect the government’s deepening concerns about the spying case for Pyongyang. As the former and current senior members of KCTU were involved in gathering information to help North Korea at home and abroad, it must be sternly punished.

When it was launched in November 1995, the KCTU declared to “secure labor conditions to maintain human integrity, grab basic labor rights, eradicate undemocratic practices in worksites, eliminate industrial disasters and realize gender equality.” It also pledged a “fierce struggle to advance the independent and democratic unification of the divided land.” Since then, the union has been devoted to North-friendly activities under the banner of realizing the unification of the two Koreas.

The findings sound loud alarms. Such acts will only benefit Pyongyang. The leadership of the combative union must keel and apologize for what they did. We urge the National Assembly to reconsider whether the Democratic Party’s movement to rid the NIS of its authority to investigate spying activities for the North was really appropriate.
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