The thought-control National Security Law bans activity that, in the eyes of government officials, “prepares, conspires, propagandizes or instigates a rebellion against the state.” The law has been in place since it was enacted in 1948 in response to massive struggles by workers and farmers for unification of Korea and against the U.S.-rigged elections that imposed the hated Syngman Rhee regime in the South.
This is the first time a person has been indicted under the NSL for “conspiracy for rebellion” since 1980 when former President Kim Dae-jung was arrested.
The charges against Lee are based on a report by an informer who secretly recorded parts of a meeting of a local branch of the Unified Progressive Party attended by some 130 people in May. The National Intelligence Service claims Lee convened a meeting of the “Revolutionary Organization” to prepare an uprising in the event of war with North Korea.
A statement by the Unified Progressive Party denies the charges, saying Lee spoke at a party meeting where participants had group discussions on how to “realize peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
South Korean authorities have stepped up use of the NSL. In 2010, 151 people were interrogated on suspicion of violations, up from 39 in 2007, reported the New York Times. During the first 10 months of 2011, police deleted 67,300 web posts for “praising North Korea and denouncing the U.S. government,” a sharp increase from 14,430 posts in 2009.
The National Intelligence Service has “invested about 100 agents for three whole days and searched my office and home, and couldn’t come up with one piece of evidence supporting ‘plotting of rebellion’ charges,” Lee said Sept. 4 in an address before the National Assembly. “Moreover, the only evidence which the [National Intelligence Service] and police together found in their joint search in connection with my aide was a pair of T-shirts.”
The ruling New Frontier Party has filed a motion to expel Lee from the National Assembly, even before a trial has taken place.
Lee and other supporters face separate charges of violating the NSL for singing the song “Red Flag” at a meeting last year. “The song was introduced in Korea in the 1930s and sung as a protest song among the anti-Japanese independence fighters,” according to a Unified Progressive Party statement.
In mid-August, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office detained four leaders of the South Headquarters of the Pan-National Alliance for Korea’s Reunification for allegedly violating the NSL for praising North Korea. The group has been in existence since 1993. In July government authorities shut down major sections of the group’s website, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
In another development, the Seoul Central District Court Sept. 12 cleared four leaders of the Alliance for the Liberation of Labor of charges of creating an anti-government organization in violation of the NSL. The four had been indicted by prosecutors in 2012 for “indirectly calling for a violent revolution,” reported the South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh.
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