[Interview] Respected scholar speaks out about his near-arrest and National Security Law

Posted on : 2008-08-30 16:28 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Socialist Workers League of Korea members were set free, but their fight to promote socialism has just begun

“The police have lost points.”

The voice of Oh Se-cheol, 65, a professor emeritus at Yonsei University, was firm. In an interview with The Hankyoreh on August 29 at the offices of the Socialist Workers League of Korea, Oh said, “Politically-motivated police have failed to link SWLK to the candlelight demonstrations. The outcome will be the same even if police seek arrest warrants again after additional investigations.”

Three days after police arrested Oh and six other Socialist Workers League members on charges of allegedly violating the National Security Law, Korea’s anti-communism law, the six were released on the night of August 28 after a court rejected arrest warrants for them. Oh, who has served as the head of the Korean Academic Society of Business Administration, the dean of the business school at Yonsei University and the leader of the Association for People’s Politics, is one of Korea’s most respected liberal scholars.

Oh said the police probe against Socialist Workers League members was aimed at “targeting the candlelight demonstrations.” Oh said, “After designating SWLK as an anti-state organization, police inquired about allegations that the group had instigated demonstrators by distributing anti-state leaflets. Investigators cornered us, even though they understood that allegations related to the National Security Law, including the designation of SWLK as an anti-state organization and the accusation of distribution of anti-state leaflets, don’t legally make sense. An anti-state organization is regarded as a pro-North Korea group, but we aren’t on that side. Furthermore, our research of socialism isn’t aimed at ‘immediately overthrowing the nation.’ Rather than ambiguously applying the National Security Law, do it openly and fairly by making a law suppressing socialism.”

“When an investigator said to me, ‘I confirmed your mobile-phone locations, were you there from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. when a candlelight demonstration was held,’ I said, ‘Yes, is that so problematic?’” Oh said. “The investigator replied, ‘That’s an illegal, violent rally.’ But police failed after trying to politically exploit our group in the wake of the candlelight rallies,” Oh said, adding, “Police have been keeping tabs on my phone and e-mail for about a year. Instead of hastily publicizing the probe, wouldn’t it have been better for the police to have conducted a proper investigation for two or three more years?”

Oh emphasized that the case provides an opportunity to raise a public awareness for the abolishment of the National Security Law. “When police asked for detailed information about the group, I responded that the details are posted on the group’s Web site and invited them to visit the Web site,” Oh said. “Just 20 years ago, I didn’t dare to use the term ‘socialism,’ but things have changed. Police should change their investigative methods by putting handcuffs on and arresting people on charges that everyone is aware of,” he said. “In the wake of this case, I have reaffirmed for myself that the National Security Law can oppress the freedom of ideology in various ways. People who fought to abolish the National Security Law should stand up and talk about it again.”

As for the future activities of the Socialist Workers League, Oh said, “It begins.” The group has resolved to “undertake the long-term task of overcoming capitalism in the stream of history,” Oh said. “Since the administration of President Lee Myung-bak was inaugurated, the problems with capitalist regimes have arisen on a large scale. Therefore, our aim is to plant the seeds of battle between capitalism and labor.”

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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