[Update: Welcome Gateway Pundit readers; this story is developing rapidly, and now, there’s new evidence that the North Koreans tried to help the ruling leftist Uri Party win the Seoul mayor’s race last May. Plus, more evidence of a North Korean hand in fanning anti-Americanism in the South.]
A widening spy scandal surrounding several senior members of the leftist Democratic Labor Party and a U.S. citizen may have led to the resignation of the head of the National Intelligence Service yesterday. Now, evidence has emerged of a direct link between Pyongyang’s agents in the South and the violent anti-American protests at Camp Humphreys last May (I served at Humphreys six years ago). As I will explain below, that also makes at least an indirect link to some members of the Uri Party.
The protests were organized and led by an organization calling itself “the Pan-National Committee to Deter the Expansion of U.S. Bases.” The Committee frequently mobilized thousands of violent protestors, many armed with bamboo poles and iron pipes. The protests resulted in hundreds of arrests and injuries, including serious injuries. The three groups that played the most important role in those protests were South Korea’s largest labor organization, the pro-North and violent Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the fiercely radical Korean Federation of University Student Councils or Hanchongryon, and the Democratic Labor Party (DLP).
What role did the DLP suspects play?
The [Democratic Labor Party] vice secretary general [Choi Ki-young] has reportedly taken a leading role in pro-North Korean activities. He played a key part in organizing protests against the move of U.S. Forces Korea headquarters to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province and was also involved in demonstrations condemning the government’s support for the UN resolution sanctioning North Korea in the wake of its nuclear test. Party sources said Choi showed more interest in issues like the abolition of the National Security Law and anti-American protests in Pyeongtaek than questions of public welfare. He also participated in candle light vigils over the killing of two middle school girls by a U.S. Army vehicle some years ago.
Lee Jung-hun also leaned toward a pro-North Korean ideology of national liberation when he was a member of the DLP’s central committee. National liberation, along with proletarian democracy, was one of the two major ideological strands among student activists in the 1980s. Since former student activists of the national liberation faction reportedly took a more active part in protests against free trade talks with the U.S. and the move of the USFK base, there is speculation linking the espionage scandal to the organized anti-American movement.
Who else played a key role in organizing those protests? Set your wayback machine for last May, and examine the roles of two men in particular. The first, Father Moon Jeong-Hyun, was a leader of the Committee, and possibly a co-Chairman; prosecutors nearly issued an arrest warrant for him because of the protests’ violence. This excellent article described Moon’s role:
A firebrand Catholic priest leads daily slogan-shouting protests at the epicenter of the worst standoff in nearly four years between South Korean forces and an array of student groups and labor organizations.
The priest, Moon Jeong-hyun, 69, returned here less than a week after holding out for most of a day on the roof of the school building with nine other priests and two National Assembly members defying the riot police, who drove the activists from the building, some of them kicking and screaming.
A distinctive figure with a flowing beard, often seen holding a video camera as he records prayer meetings and confrontations, Moon and his cohorts were promised they would not be arrested before descending down a ladder from the roof on May 4.
Moon has lived in the village for the past two years, making it the center of the same anti-US struggle that he led during enormous protests in Seoul after the deaths of two schoolgirls, run over by a 50-ton US armored vehicle during military exercises nearly four years ago.
“Pray for this land,” Moon preaches to the villagers. “You have prospered on this land. Pray for your homes. You have built these homes. The land is yours. Your prayers will protect you.”
Now Moon is protected by activists manning checkpoints at entrances to the village within shouting distance of police blocking off narrow paved roads across the rice paddies into the village, on the western fringe of the bustling town of Pyongtaek, on the main railroad to Seoul.
The activists carry banners, not weapons, but they’re clearly ready to battle any attempt by police to enter the village.
Now, the really curious part.
Some wonder if the South’s governing Uri Party is actually encouraging the standoff in which an assembly member from the party, Im Jung-in, is playing a leading role.
Im was up on the roof with the priests before they all came down on May 4 – and has appeared again at rallies in the village. He talks frequently on his mobile phone with party officials, and his presence in the village symbolizes support for the farmers and activists in the government.
I don’t know that Im was involved with the North Koreans, but he was clearly doing everything he could to cover for others who, with or without Im’s knowledge, were. Im appears to have insured that Moon wouldn’t be arrested for his role in the violent protests. He also joined with five other Uri parliamentarians to demand the withdrawal of riot police in the face of the violent protests:
Meanwhile, six lawmakers from the ruling Uri Party released a statement calling for the withdrawal of riot police from the Pyeongtaek site. “The presence of soldiers and riot police there resulted in unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding with the locals,” they said. “To minimize that, the government needs to withdraw them. The six are Woo Won-shik, You Seung-Hee, Lee In-young, Im Jong-in, Jung Chung-rae and Choi Jae-cheon.
Im even joined the DLP recently in calling on the government to abolish the National Intelligence Service’s authority to investigate violations of the National Security Law (via the DLP Web site). Im, in other words, was a close collaborator with the senior leadership of a committee whose membership included suspected North Korean spies, and whose activities may have been inspired and directed from Pyongyang. Im did everything in his power to protect them from investigation, arrest, and prosecution, and to secure the release of those already arrested. He did so by using his connections to the leadership of the Uri Party.
For further reading on the pro-North sympathies and affiliations of the other partners in the Committee, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Hanchongryon, start at page 11 of my congressional testimony. More on South Korea’s Fifth Column here. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from KCTU President Kim Tae-Il:
During the May 1 North-South Workers’ Rally in Pyongyang, the workers of North and South agreed to unify to carry out the anti-American struggle”¦. The center of that struggle with the United States is Daechu-ri, Pyeongtaek.
Yes, this is the leader of South Korea’s largest labor organization. One final interesting, though not necessarily damning fact, is that the husband of Prime Minister Han Myeong-Sook was also a close collaborator with the anti-base coalition.
For its part, the DLP claims this is all a nasty plot by those notorious Yankee stooges in the Uri Party.
“The NIS did not elaborate details, but said Lee contacted a North Korean spy when it arrested him. We must say this is a plot by the NIS to set up the anti-North Korea and anti-unification atmosphere while conflicts intensified between North Korea and the United States, and also between the two Koreas,” the statement said.
And unless my eyes deceive me, they also said the opposite:
“We think that this has been set up by pro-Pyongyang forces within the National Intelligence Service,” the party’s spokesman Park Yong-jin said in a briefing.
Emphasis mine. And yes, we can expect more arrests:
Investigators reportedly found a notebook that contained lists of names of South Korean civic group officials and former student activists, with other information that the sources refused to disclose.
The Chosun Ilbo wonders why the NIS Chair, Kim Seung-Kyu, is resigning, and hints at a cover-up. Finally, kudos to U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow — now pushing for South Korean compliance with Resolution 1718 — for being honest with the Korean people about the effect anti-Americanism is having on bilateral relations:
When asked how anti-U.S. sentiment here was viewed in the United States, Mr. Vershbow launched more pointed remarks. “I think there is a perception in the U.S. these days that Koreans have become more and more anti-American, and that they don’t appreciate the U.S. defense guarantee and the commitment of troops on the Korean peninsula, and this contributes to a certain mistrust and sometimes even animosity toward Korea.”
“It’s actually encouraging that the silent majority has been a little bit more vocal in recent weeks in reminding people of just how important our alliance still is.”
Yeah, well, I’m not sure they’re a majority, but I’d agree that they’ve been pretty silent, and that’s really the root of the entire problem.