Archive for Korean Law

Parents of South Korean Missionary Killed by the Taliban Sue … the South Korean Government!

So it never occurred to these fools to sue the Taliban to get back some of that $20 million in ransom money, courtesy of our dead grateful ally, Roh Moo Hyun? Do people never take responsibility for their own stupidity? And is it any wonder why people hate lawyers so much?

These Are Not Your Father’s North Korean Terrorists

Those North Korean spies sent to assassinate Hwang Jang Yop have appeared in open court to plead guilty:

They stayed tight-lipped during the 30-minute hearing but for just a couple of questions when the judge addressed them directly. They briefly replied – “Yes” or “Yes that’s true.”

During the hearing, they frequently gazed at the ceiling of the courtroom and at the prosecutors sitting on the opposite side, but never turned their eyes to the judge or toward the guest seats occupied by reporters and intelligence agents. The two pled guilty on all charges against them and raised no objection to the nearly 200 recorded items the prosecution submitted as evidence.

Prosecutor Lee Jae-young had asked the judge for a closed-door trial for security reasons, but the judge refused, citing freedom of the press. “Their family members are still alive in the North. They are in fear of possible punishment or ill-treatment since the case has been made public,” Lee said.

You know, in my day, any self-respecting North Korean terrorist captured by puppet forces would have swallowed a cyanide capsule or, failing that, stood before a firing squad and coolly smoked a last cigarette while still refusing to talk. But these kids today, they lawyer up and confess before a battery of cameras. It’s enough to make you wonder what this world is coming to.

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 1, 2008 to reward it for its progress toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible nuclear disarmament. President Obama reaffirmed the de-listing on February 3, 2010, citing a lack of evidence for North Korea’s recent sponsorship of terrorism. Discuss among yourselves.

It looks like we’re just one or two hearings away from the State Department having yet another criminal conviction to try to ignore.

Hwang Jang Yop Assassination Team Indicted

In America, lawyers often say you can indict a ham sandwich. In the federal system, an indictment means only that probable causes exists to believe that an offense was committed and that the defendant committed it. In Korea, however, if the prosecution indicts, it means they think they have the goods on you. It means they think that your confession (however coerced) and the statements against you (most likely hearsay) and other evidence (however circumstantial) are enough to convince the judges (who may or may not be dozing in court) that you’re guilty. Statistically speaking, if you’re indicted, you’re as good as knackered. So with that said, the prosecutors in Seoul think they have the goods on Major Kim Yong-ho and Major Dong Myong-gwan of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the Worker’s Party of Chosun:

Two North Korean agents sent to South Korea to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-ranking official ever to defect from Pyongyang, were indicted yesterday. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted two North Koreans, Kim, 36, and Tong, 36, on charges of coming to South Korea, posing as North Korean defectors, to assassinate Hwang under an order by the spy agency of the North’s Ministry of People’s Armed Forces.

Kim and Tong allegedly came to South Korea last December, by way of China and Thailand. According to prosecutors, the two said they were ordered to keep a close eye on Hwang and report back a detailed plan to assassinate him. Also, the two said that the spy agency told them that even if Hwang was dying of old age, he must not be allowed to die naturally.

Second lieutenants Kim and Tong were made members of the spy agency in September 1992, prosecutors said. They entered South Korea posing as distant relatives of Hwang. [Joongang Ilbo]

And right after the election, too! I question the timing.

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008 as a good faith gesture in anticipation of its complete, verifiable, and irreversible nuclear disarmament. On February 3, 2010, President Obama concluded that there was insufficient evidence of North Korea’s recent sponsorship of terrorism to restore it to the list.

North Korean Milfspionage Takes a Scary Turn

boris_natasha_fearless.jpgWhat is it with the North Korean spy agencies’ recent proclivity for using “women of a certain age” to target horny South Korean men? First, there was Won Jong-Hwa, who seduced, inter alia, a young South Korean army captain for classified information, and possibly a lieutenant as well, assuming that both officers weren’t actually the same person.

Now, there is the story of Kim Soon-Nyeo, whose targets included a 29 year-old college student, two travel agency workers, and her grand sugardaddy, a former executive of the Seoul Subway system.

You may thank the OFK Editorial Board in the comments for the many available metaphors it deemed unfit to print, as this discussion is about to become very serious.

The spy collected “confidential” information about the subway system from Oh, information about local universities from the student, and a list of names of high-ranking police and public officials from the travel agents.

Oh maintained extramarital relations with the spy since his first encounter with her in China in May 2006, and transferred nearly 300 million won ($252,000) to “help” her cosmetics business. In June 2007, he became aware that she was a North Korean spy, but continued the relationship.

“What Oh handed over to the spy included contact information of emergency situation responses and other not-so-important internal data,” Kim Jung-hwan, a Seoul Metro spokesman, told The Korea Times, dismissing concerns that it could be used in possible acts of terrorism here by the North. Kim retired from his post in 2008. [Korea Times]

I shudder at the thought of why the North Koreans want to know these things. That is why, as much as I like Richard Halloran’s writing and analysis, I don’t think he has quite grasped the worst case scenario when he calls for the bombing of North Korea’s artillery sites. Yes, I can imagine a circumstance in which we or South Korea might face a provocation or a threat so serious that we have to do something more dramatic, in which case what Halloran calls for might have to be our first step. But I’m not there yet, because I fear that North Korea’s most dangerous weapons are already inside South Korea. Nor do I share Halloran’s confidence that North Korea’s front line troops are poorly trained, or that they would “stand down” if attacked.

On the contrary, I advocate the (admittedly also risky) gradualist approach of constricting the regime economically and subverting it politically because the last thing I want to do is force a stroke-addled tyrant to make sudden “use it or lose it” decisions. I want to create the conditions for a favorable power shift about when that tyrant goes off to his meat locker mausoleum.

By comparison, John Bolton’s recommendations seem sedate and reasonable, although the part about China supporting a One Free Korea policy is implausible until we make North Korea China’s problem. Think: nukes for Taiwan and a shiny embassy for the Dalai Lama on Connecticut Avenue (or, just to make it even more fun, exactly the opposite!). Here in Washington, we spend a great deal of thought and worry about our relationship with China, but hardly anyone ever has to worry about China’s relationship with us. Hail ants!

I recently noted North Korea’s tendency to give its spies on the job training in China, whose government allows North Korean spies to operate as they hunt down defectors and send them back to the gulag (or a firing squad).

Someone remind me again why human rights is a distraction from the bigger issues.

Samsung Tries to Sue Its Way to Mohammunity

Recently, a friend approached me about the idea of writing a column for a South Korean newspaper. I declined on the basis that I’m already overtaxed by the burden of writing this blog, but perhaps I should have added “the defense of personal jurisdiction” as another reason:

In his Christmas Day 2009 column for the Korea Times, Michael Breen decided to lampoon such national newsmakers as President Lee Myung-bak and the pop idol Rain.

Headlined “What People Got for Christmas,” the English-language column also poked fun at global technology giant Samsung Electronics, referring to past bribery scandals as well as perceptions that its leaders are arrogant. [....]

Breen’s column ran as local media reported that President Lee would soon pardon Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee on a 2008 conviction for tax evasion. Chairman Lee, 68, had already received a federal pardon in the 1990s on a conviction for bribing two former presidents while he was with the firm.

On Dec. 29, the day of Lee’s pardon, Samsung sued the freelance columnist, the newspaper and its top editor for $1 million, claiming damage to its reputation and potential earnings. After the Korea Times ran clarifications, the newspaper and its editor were dropped from the suit.

And people wonder why corporate corruption is so common in South Korea. I guess it just goes to show that you never know what you’re not reading:

“In South Korea, it’s considered taboo to criticize the chaebols,” said Kim Ky-won, professor of economics at Korea National Open University. “They hold very close to absolute power.”

Most critical stories run in smaller media less dependent on ads from big companies. Major media reports are mostly limited to breaking news of prosecutions of chaebol leaders but seldom probe deeper, critics say.

“Samsung has financial power over the press. They’re their own sanctuary where no one can intervene or criticize them,” said Kim Keon-ho, an official at the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice.

With special guest appearance by Brendon Carr:

“In South Korea, injury to one’s reputation is the key element, not the truth,” he said. “The fact that a statement is true is not an absolute defense. Satire is not a defense. That’s different from the American definition. America is a free speech society, whereas Korea is not. It has historically been a ‘sit down and shut up’ society.”

Punishment here is tougher if the statement is not true. “But you’re punished in all cases for revealing things that injure someone’s reputation,” Carr said. “If you say, ‘Look out for Jim. He’s a crook. He swindled me,’ that’s a crime in South Korea. And people use it. Defamation may be the No. 1 criminal complaint here.”

Suddenly, Robert Koehler’s hypervigilance about libel suits doesn’t seem so hypervigilant. I wonder if a South Korean judge or lawyer (or Samsung) can now sue Mr. Carr. I wonder where this stops. I especially wonder if any of the many South Korean plaintiffs I’ve criticized or ridiculed would try to assert personal jurisdiction over a U.S.-based blog whose only footprint in Korea is the fact of not being blocked there. Yet.

I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Breen’s writing, even if I often disagree with his views. I find it tasteless of Samsung to persecute him for satirizing press reports that it paid bribes to prosecutors. I find it especially tasteless that my profession is being misused to censor public criticism and suppress freedom of speech notwithstanding the truth of the matter asserted. As a small gesture of solidarity with Mr. Breen, whom I’ve never met, here are some links to other people’s reports on what the scandal is all about, just in case you didn’t really know, either.

* Former Samsung lawyer “Kim Yong-chul claimed that Samsung has a large network of government officials, politicians, journalists and academics in its pay,” a network that doesn’t include one presidential aide who photographed and then refused a W5 million “holiday gift.”

* This NYT blog post notes that Mr. Kim even managed to get Catholic priests to act as his mouthpieces. That’s some trick.

* Someone alleged that Samsung had also paid off Roh Moo Hyun.

If you ask me, the suppression of legitimate criticism is a greater scandal than any of this. Admittedly, I wasn’t a major consumer of Samsung products before this, but I sure as hell won’t be one now.

How Will Chung Dong Young Answer a Truth and Reconciliation Committee?

After years of unproductive debate, the South Korean National Assembly’s Unification and Foreign Affairs Committee finally approved a bill on improving human rights conditions in North Korea last week, on a vote divided along party lines:

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) said the overall budget for its activities in 12 categories was cut by 5.38 percent on-year to 4.63 billion won (US$4 million) for the 2010 fiscal year. Funding for research into North Korean defectors and human rights conditions in the socialist state remained unchanged, however, at 331 million won, the independent commission said. The North Korea-related budget is far larger than 140 million won that the commission initially asked for, indicating that the government is putting an emphasis on the issues.

The North Korea budget will be used to fund local and overseas surveys of defectors from the North and human rights conditions there, as well as to host an international symposium and domestic forums, and to publish and purchase books. [Yonhap]

Yet the vigorous and outspoken South Korean press informs us that the idea that North Koreans ought to be able to read anything but the pablum spat out by the state’s propaganda mills is “controversial.” Got that? The South Koreans are having a vigorous debate about whether North Koreans also have an equally inalienable right to have vigorous debates. Equally controversial is the idea that South Korean humanitarian aid should be monitored as a safeguard against the regime stealing it from hungry kids and diverting it to the army by the trainload:

The tentatively-called “North Korean Human Rights Act” calls for, among other things, strictly regulating humanitarian aid with respect to delivery and distribution, making even the provision by private groups far more difficult than now. It also stipulates the establishment of a human rights foundation under the unification minister, which will likely hinder the ministry’s conduct of its foremost duty of improving inter-Korean relationships with a broader perspective.

Although the bill stresses the need for actively supporting private organizations engaged in promoting human rights in the North, critics point out these are the groups mainly involved in instigation and subversion activities by dropping anti-Pyongyang leaflets from balloons or planning organized defection.

Supporters of the bill may refute that mere criticisms and expressions of anger will be of little help to bringing about real changes. True, there will be clear limitations to sharply improving human rights situations without a fundamental change in their one-person rule and collective leadership.

But this is why it is more important to induce the reclusive regime to gradually change its system and join the rest of the world through ceaseless dialogue and the improvement of ties. [Korea Times]

You say these like they’re bad things.

When advancing this particular idea, the Times would do well to point out a single measurable accomplishment derived from the billions of dollars in unconditional aid to Kim Jong Il … that is, aside from financing Kim Jong Il’s acquisition of a bona fide nuclear weapons capability and a vastly improved missile arsenal to aim at Seoul. And the human rights policy pursued by men like Roh Moo Hyun and Chung Dong-Young was to say and do as little as possible to help North Koreans. Starving refugees were told to die in place, South Korea abstained from supporting even meaningless U.N. resolutions asking North Korea to moderate its mass murder, and the “quiet diplomacy” it claimed to be pursuing turned out to be a complete sham when revealed in practice.

Their own bankruptcy of ideas reveals the disgraceful cynicism of Roh and Chung’s political progeny. If we are to accept the legitimacy of retroactively purging and punishing collaboration with fascism — I don’t, but the South Korean political system has — this ought to be fine fodder for some Truth and Reconciliation Committee ten years hence. The Democratic Party’s view here is laid out by its mouthpiece, the collaborationist Hankyoreh:

The Democratic Party voiced strong opposition, saying it plans to take committee Chairman Park Jin to the National Assembly Ethics Committee for ignoring their objections. In its statement, the DP condemned the law, and criticized the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) for railroading the law through the committee. The DP is saying the law would not contribute to improvements in North Korean human rights, rather, they are saying it is an “Anti-North Korean Citizens Law,” and the North Korean government, who views the law as a threat to their government, could repress the actual human rights of North Koreans by strengthening its controls over them. The DP also says the law bans humanitarian aid to North Korea by strictly limiting humanitarian assistance and is a “New Right Support Bill” to support groups that send balloons and pamphlets to North Korea under the guise of promoting North Korean human rights.

DP Lawmaker Chung Dong-young said the current administration is setting as its departure point the Basic Agreement of 1991, signed during the Roh Tae-woo administration, but the law clashes with the spirit of the agreement, which calls on both countries not to slander or commit libel against the other country’s government. Chung asked whether the administration could hold an inter-Korean summit with this law in effect.

You can always count on Chung to set a new low for breathtaking stupidity. I’d ask whether these people read the Rodong Sinmun if the answer weren’t so obvious. You can say “sticks and stones” to most of this, but you’d think that if Chung possessed an ounce of civic and patriotic regard for the interests of his own country, he’d at least ask the North not to use its official state media as an instrument of terrorism, for example, by threatening civilian airliners at Incheon Airport.

Civic groups also slammed the law. Koo Kab-woo, head of the People’s Solidarity for a Participatory Democracy’s (PSPD) Center for Peace and Disarmament, said it is possible to address the North Korea human rights issue under the Inter-Korean Relations Development Law passed by the ruling and opposition parties in December 2005, and he does not understand why it was necessary to unilaterally pass the North Korean Human Rights Law at this time. Suh Bo-hyuk, research fellow of the Korea National Strategy Institute, said there is concern that by making the Ministry of Unification the primary body to handle North Korean human rights policy, the law could weaken the ability of the ministry to negotiate with North Korea and have an adverse effect on the development of inter-Korean relations and bringing about substantive improvements in North Korean human rights. [The Hanky]

If this opposition were interested in a sincere regard for the lives of the North Korean people rather than servility toward Kim Jong Il, don’t you suppose the South Korean Left would actually have bothered to formulate a human rights policy for North Korea? It’s their intellectual bankruptcy and their complicit silence during their years in power and ever since that are the most telling.

A Glimpse at the Growing Pains Connected with Reunification

While living in Korea, I was always surprised at some South Korean citizens’ belief that reunification, whenever it should happen, will be smooth sailing. Indeed, one would think that is the message the ROK government is trying to sell. Has anyone seen the video they play at the DMZ? I’m not sure if they’ve since changed it, but when I saw it, they had smiling, well-fed, healthy children running around a grassy field with butterflies and flowers and a little girl who appeared to be picking something off the barbed-wire fence separating North and South Korea. It looked like she was picking off buns or rice cakes or something. Anyway, I found it an odd image to portray, especially considering the significance of the area and what goes on on the Northern side of the DMZ. But I guess in retrospect, I can appreciate the symbolism — if I were to assess it from a South Korean citizens’ standpoint, that is.

Anyway, in reality, I do think that despite their lofty expectations about reunification, there are some (older?) South Koreans who acknowledge that when it does happen, it will bring many complications at first. I could list several potential growing pains, many which the peninsula has already dealt when North Koreans relocate to the South: discrimination of North Koreans by South Koreans; difficulties North Koreans would face adjusting to life in a highly developed, capitalist society; cheap North Korean labor creating more job competition and resulting in restless labor unions; self-segregation and the possible development of North Korean ghettos; the financial burden South Koreans would carry in process of rebuilding the peninsula and of course, legal issues.

The idea of cross-border legal grievances is an interesting one and it looks like South Korea is getting a sneak preview of what might happen in a reunified nation. Apparently, for the first time, a South Korean court has accepted a civil dispute brought forth by North Korean citizens. From the New York Times:

Four North Korean brothers and sisters have sued their late father’s second wife and that couple’s four children in South Korea for a share of an inheritance from the estate of the father, a successful doctor.

The suit claims at least a quarter of the father’s land and other property, worth about $8 million. He left North Korea for the South with his eldest daughter during the 1950-53 Korean War and never returned. In 1959, he reported that his first wife had died and married a South Korean woman, with whom he had four more children. He died in 1987.


The lawsuit was initiated last year by the eldest daughter, who still lives in the South. The lawyer handling the suit is Bae Geum-ja, who was involved in a similar case in 2001 that was settled out of court.

The article’s concluding sentence highlights the complications that could arise, depending on the verdict: “If the plaintiffs prevail in this case, every North Korean with a relative in South Korea will claim an inheritance.” Hopefully by then, some sort of legislation will be in place to determine how best to handle such suits. No doubt this will be a case study for aspiring South Korea lawyers.

NIS Seeks Direct Power to Eavesdrop on Foreigners

The bill before the Legislation and Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee would have the law changed to make it possible for the NIS to eavesdrop on all current communication formats like mobile telecommunications and the Internet, as well as all communications networks that take form in the future. It would also require communications companies to maintain records of all communications for at least one year keep user location information as part of those records.

In addition, the bill would allow the NIS to, with presidential approval and for reasons of national security, eavesdrop on foreigners and electronic communications by the military. [The Hankyoreh]

What was absent from the article was any mention of how “national security” would be defined. A clear line ought to be drawn somewhere between the terrorist plotting to attack the school and the Canadian hippie B.C. bud smoker, but probably won’t be.

Under existing law, the NIS apparently has to go through communications companies, which by itself doesn’t seem provide much in the way of checks or balances.

South Korean Officer Gets 3 1/2 Years in North Korea Spy Scandal

Somehow, the spirit of the June 15th declaration hasn’t reached all levels of the North Korean government:

A South Korean army officer has been sentenced to three and a half years in military prison for aiding a North Korean spy in a sex-for-secrets scandal last year, an official said Friday.

The 27-year-old first lieutenant, identified only by his last name Hwang, was arrested in July on charges of supplying classified information to North Korean spy Won Jeong-hwa while being aware of her identity. [Yonhap]

Background here. Note that the previous reporting mentioned that Ms. Won had seduced a colonel and a captain, but no lieutenants. Evidently Mrs. Won was something of a cougar.

And in other ROK Army corruption news, a South Korean official responsible for supporting his government’s part of USFK relocation has been fired for accepting a golf outing with would-be government contractors, whom Yonhap says may have offered the official a bribe. I certainly hope he wasn’t fired without some evidence that he took the money.

Korea Invents New Form of Child Exploitation

Korea’s entertainment industry, legal “profession,” and police force join forces to shake down kids:

“We have struggled to find a way to stop the abuse of the justice system,” said Hwang Un-ha, Daejeon Jungbu Police chief. “So we decided to exercise the right of police to refer cases for summary trial. It was a solution to save kids. [Joongang Ilbo, emphasis mine]

How compassionate of them.

Copyright holders, however, are upset, claiming that the matter must not be treated lightly. “We agree that the law firms’ abuse of litigation is inappropriate,” said Yu Hyeong-seok, legal affairs team head of the Korea Music Copyright Association. “But the fundamental problem is the portal sites, which turn a blind eye to the kids’ copyright violations while raking in enormous profits. The companies that host blogs and other Internet communities must be held accountable.

The pursuit of actual crime and injustice must not be lucrative enough.