Military expands book blacklist

Posted on : 2008-07-31 13:14 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
List of 23 books designated as ‘seditious’ now includes best-sellers and books by academics
” by Ha-Joon Chang is one of the books the military is trying to ban from its ranks.
” by Ha-Joon Chang is one of the books the military is trying to ban from its ranks.

It was discovered that the Ministry of National Defense has labeled books about culture and best-sellers as “seditious publications” and taken them off the shelves. Military authorities instructed the army to block distribution of dangerous documents by requiring that all mail be opened in the presence of a military officer.

According to an official document from the Air Force Chief of the General Staff obtained by The Hankyoreh on July 30, Air Force Headquarters instructed military units on July 24 to check whether or not subversive books were brought in and to report the results to higher units by August 11. Action was taken following an order given by Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee on July 19, the document said.

In the instructions, the Air Force states that “seditious books” can hinder soldiers’ concentration and suggested a list of 23 books to be banned in three categories: pro-Pyongyang, anti-government and anti-U.S., and anti-capitalism.

The blacklist also contained a considerable number of books written by internationally-recognized scholars, books about culture, ordinary literature and books on the best-seller list. “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism,” written by Ha-Joon Chang, a professor at the University of Cambridge, is a best-seller that was selected as one of the 10 best books of the year by many media companies. Hyeon Gi-yeong's novel “A Spoon on Earth” was classified as pro-North Korea and “Year 501: The Conquest Continues” by Noam Chomsky was classified as anti-government and anti-U.S.

In order to prevent books classified as “seditious” from coming into the military, the Air Force suggested that the presence of such books immediately be reported to defense security units, that goods brought in by soldiers returning to the military after vacation be examined and that all mail be opened by the recipient in the presence of an officer. The Air Force also included in its list books that were selected as good publications by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and took them off the shelves in 2007.

An officer who asked to remain anonymous said, “It is unusual that such an instruction was given through the ordinary chain of command, not through the Defense Security Command.”

Regarding this, the Defense Ministry said, “When a book is published, we judge whether or not the book contains anti-government content according to the National Security Law. Under military service regulations, soldiers can’t have seditious publications.”

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