Rightists Upset President In Talks on Security Law

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Rightists Upset President In Talks on Security Law

Members of a high profile right-wing group met President Kim Dae-jung at the Blue House Monday, and strongly urged him to reconsider plans to amend the National Security Law. "We are deeply concerned as there are ongoing discussions on revising the National Security Law in the political arena," Chung Sung-hwa, president of the Korea Retired Generals and Admirals Association said.

The group's visit follows Mr. Kim's remarks in a speech Saturday in which he said that the Korean government should amend the draconian National Security Law, "even if North Korea does not amend the statute of the North Korean Workers' Party." Faced with the criticism from the conservative, the president's face became grim, presidential aides said. "It is the first time that any group or individual directly opposed the president's opinion to his face," a presidential aide said.

Emphasizing that he will take the public opinion into consideration, Mr. Kim nevertheless said that "the public opposes the law's abolishment but not its revision." He cited the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize and international calls for improved human rights as reasons to revise the draconian law.

The president tried to persuade the group that the revision would be limit-ed to clauses that criminalize offenses such as "praising and encouraging, as well as visiting North Korea." Southerners are forbidden from supporting or praising North Korea in any manner. Those who join pro-Pyongyang organizations or have unauthorized contacts with North Koreans are subject to harsh punishment.

The retired officers were not the only group to oppose the president's latest comments concerning the law. The United Liberal Democrats, the renewed coalition partner for Mr. Kim's ruling Millennium Democratic Party held a meeting of senior party officials to slow revision of the law.

by Kim Jin-kook

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