After UPP ruling, prosecutors carrying out broad crackdown on progressives

Posted on : 2014-12-23 17:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Various groups now being probed on possibility of “aiding the enemy” and associating with North Korea
 chanting slogans protesting her government’s destruction of democracy
chanting slogans protesting her government’s destruction of democracy

Police are investigating an attorney whose client was recently acquitted in a high-profile espionage case for alleged violation of the National Security Law, it emerged on Dec. 22.

The same day, police searched eight locations associated with the attorney, Jang Kyung-wook of the group MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, including his office and home.

Meanwhile, prosecutors began considering whether to classify the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) as a “group aiding the enemy” following a Constitutional Court ruling last week to disband it. Many are viewing the events as part of an all-out security blitz in the wake of the UPP ruling, with long-standing cases among security authorities and accusations by conservative and far-right groups used to go after potential “threats.”

The second security division of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) conducted search and seizure operations on the offices of Corean Alliance in Seoul’s Seongsan neighborhood and four other locations, including the homes of nine members. The group is being investigated for alleged expression of support for North Korea’s “military first” political regime through an internet cafe, which constitutes “praise and encouragement” for the enemy according to the National Security Law.

Search and seizure operations were also conducted on three locations associated with a pastor from the CCL [Civilian Control Line] Peace Church, including his home in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, and the church itself. The pastor, surnamed Lee, is being investigated for meeting with the vice director of North Korea‘s Institution for Unification of the Fatherland while attending a Nov. 2013 seminar in Germany, which is considered “meeting, correspondence, or coordination with the enemy” according to the law.

“The Corea Alliance case has been under internal investigation since the first half of 2012, and we wanted to finish it within the year,” explained the police.

Acting under the prosecutors’ direction, the police also attempted to search Jang‘s home, but the court refused to grant a warrant. Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office first security division, which is directing the case, is investigating Jang for allegedly meeting with North Koreans while in Germany with Lee.

“The Corean Alliance, which is suspected of establishing a group aiding the enemy, appears to have helped Jang and Lee with their trip to Germany,” explained a source with prosecutors.

Speaking in a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh, Jang asked, “Am I not supposed to go to an international seminar I’ve been invited to if a North Korean also participates?”

“My guess is that they’re using South Korea‘s proneness to security panics to go after me,” he added.

Also, a conservative group filed a complaint with the first security division of Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Dec. 19, charging the entire membership of the UPP, including party leader Lee Jung-hee, with violating the National Security Law. The office is currently weighting whether to use the Constitutional Court‘s recent ruling as a basis for classifying the UPP as a group that aids the enemy.

“If we do decide to investigate, we’re not going to investigate every single of the party’s members,” a source with prosecutors said. Indeed, observers believe the investigation, if it happens, would focus on the six people named in the complaint, including Lee and former National Assembly lawmakers for the party.

Signs also pointed to the investigations possibly expanding to progressives in general. On Dec. 22, a right-wing group lodged a complaint with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office against people who staged demonstrations on Dec. 20--21 criticizing the UPP disbandment decision, including Korea Alliance For Progressive Movement representative Park Seok-un, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions president Shin Seung-cheol, and Korean Peasants‘ League chairperson Kim Young-ho.

The group is arguing that Article 5-1 of the Assembly and Demonstration Act bans gatherings and demonstrations to achieve the goals of a party that has been disbanded by Constitutional Court ruling.

Speaking at a press conference on Dec. 22, SMPA commissioner Kang Shin-myung said police were “considering comments made by Lee Jung-hee and others while attending the demonstrations on Dec. 20 and 21.”

“A decision is very likely to come at a later date,” Kang added.

Police are reportedly in the process of gathering and analyzing statements and details from the demonstrations.

By Kim Kyu-nam and Jung Hwan-bong, staff reporters


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