Archive for Korean Law

NIS agent gets prison time for framing defector

A Seoul court sentenced Tuesday a mid-ranking state intelligence agent to two and a half years in prison for instructing other agents to forge documents to frame a North Korean defector as a spy.

The 48-year-old National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent, surnamed Kim, was convicted of instructing other agents to fabricate the Chinese immigration records of Yoo Woo-seong, a 34-year-old defector who was then an employee of the Seoul municipal government, to charge him with espionage.

“Kim routinely made excuses before the judges and asked his collaborators to give false testimonies to make him appear innocent,” the Seoul Central District Court said in a ruling. [Yonhap]

Why would an NIS agent do this? My best guess, based on this report, is that the investigator really believed Yoo was guilty, couldn’t get the evidence the right way, and then decided to fabricate the missing pieces. Obviously, that excuses nothing.

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.

Can we finally dispense with the whole “no gay in Korea” myth … ?

… now that the Korean Supreme Court is considering the case of a certain “Sergeant A?”

A sergeant identified only as “A” was initially booked on a charge of making a sexual attack on a private in a platoon that he led, but the suit against him was dropped with the victim’s consent. However, the sergeant has been newly charged for violation of Clause 92 of military criminal law.  [Joongang Ilbo]

In the American system, cases very rarely become “test cases” unless there is (a) a live case or controversy and (b) an error of law asserted by one of the parties.  The case of an accused barracks rapist would seem a poor choice for a test case by gay rights advocates, who may well lack the legal sophistication of their American counterparts.  Here, however, it appears that the military court itself sent this up to the Supreme Court for review, which may reveal yet another way in which the Korean system differs from ours.  I had to wince at this dubious citation of authority:

The military court argued that considering today’s currents, it seems excessive to sentence those engaged in consensual sex to prison.

“Not only in foreign countries, but also in Korea, the national consciousness about homosexuality is changing [to be more open] as films, plays and novels dealing with homosexuality earn publicity and social gatherings of homosexuals increase in number,” the court said in its ruling.

Right.  And as authority for our new landmark decision, we cite “The King and the Clown,” scene six.  With that sort of logic, it’s not hard to imagine a judge citing “The Host,” the completely fictionalized film “No Gun Ri,” or taking judicial notice of the equally fictionalized U.S. beef controversy to support a conviction or enhanced penalties for an American tried in a Korean court.  In a country as polarized and volatile as Korea, taking the measure of “today’s currents” seems an exceptionally imprecise and undemocratic way to interpret a constitution.

Related:   The Korean Supreme Court has ruled in favor of granting refugee status to a Chinese democracy activist, reversing a 2005 decision that would have allowed the repatriation of the activist and two family members.  For all of his claims to liberalism, Roh was always more deferential toward the rights of dictatorships to oppress than to the rights of individuals to express themselves. Technically, the Korean judiciary is supposed to be independent, but I’ve noticed a suspicious alignment between court decisions and the views of the elected branches.  I guess the ability to cite “today’s currents” gives you all the flexibility you need for that.

Better Them Than Us: Korean Nationalism Turns on China

As I suspected, the China’s censorship-by-thug on the streets of  Seoul is not proving popular among Koreans.  The Chinese  government seems to be coming to grips with the P.R. disaster it has made for itself.  Its diplomats, though not quite in a full kowtow position, are offering either an apology or whatever it is that  Asian diplomats  offer when national pride prevents one: 

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry expressed regret Monday to China’s ambassador to Seoul, Ning Fukui, over the incident, which led to the arrests of four people including one Chinese student. Ning said he regretted the “extreme behavior” of the Chinese protesters and expressed sympathy to South Koreans injured during the rallies. [AP, via IHT]

“What I want to stress is that Chinese people, especially Chinese students here, have good feelings for South Koreans,” the Chinese ambassador told reporters.   When asked if the Chinese embassy will cooperate with the police investigation, however, Ning avoided a direct answer. “I don’t know in detail,” he said.  [Yonhap]

A Foreign Ministry official said the envoy [Chinese]  apologized and expressed his sympathy with Korean police officers and reporters who were injured in the violence. The violence against police officers “should not have happened,” he said. [Chosun Ilbo]

Today, however,  the Chosun Ilbo constradicts itself and says the Chinese government not only “stopp[ed] short of an apology” by merely “express[ing] sympathy” to the  people its mobs attacked on the streets of Seoul,  but  is also telling the home folks a slightly different story:

In a briefing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “It was an action for justice by well-meaning Chinese students who tried to prevent Tibetan secessionists from obstructing the Olympic torch relay for the Beijing Olympics. Their motive was well meant, but their action became violent. The Chinese government expresses sympathy with the victims of the violence.”

When reporters asked if the Chinese government had no intention to apologize to the Korean people, Jiang merely said, “Chinese people on the scene were well-meaning “¦. But their action for justice became violent when they tried to deter Tibetan secessionists from obstructing the Olympic torch relay.”   [Chosun Ilbo]

It seems semantic to Westerners, but in Asia, the nuance of apology and regret overshadows the character of relations  between nations.  Lee Myung Bak is now forced to express “strong regret” for the incident (read: the actions of the Chinese) and seek arrests, prosecutions, deportations, and other “stern measures.” This is entirely appropriate when a regional hegemon looses its mobs on the streets of a neighbor’s capital city to control what views can be expressed there.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister is going to raise the issue in Beijing this week.  If this were just a diplomatic tiff, it  could be handled quietly.  YouTube has obviated that course.  And legally, the Korean authorities  are compelled to act.   Everyone in  Korea has seen the video,  and the  Korean police are now  scrolling through that video to identify the particular Chinese thugs who threw rocks and bottles, and who beat and kicked protestors. 

President Lee, it should be remembered, has  made an issue of restoring the public order that Roh had allowed to erode.  If  he  lets these goon squads escape real punishment, the Korean street will be furious, and rightfully so.  If the South Korean authorities prosecute, the Chinese street will be furious, and it will probably be lost on  many of them  that doing the same thing in China  would likely earn  them a stretch in the laogai or a fatal beating in a local police station.   For a day, Seoul  became for politically repressed Chinese youth what  Tijuana is  for sexually repressed American youth.

“It is deeply regrettable that foreigners staged illegal, violent protests at a time when people here are refraining from violent rallies since the new government took office,” Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han told the Cabinet.  [Yonhap]

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said his government will handle the case in accordance with “law and principles.”  “As the national pride has been considerably hurt by the incident, legal and diplomatic measures that can restore the national pride will have to follow,” Han, a former foreign minister, was quoted as telling a Cabinet meeting by Vice Culture Minister Shin Jae-min, who serves as a government spokesman.  [Yonhap]

And here, in one word, is what politicians of both parties now find themselves up against:  pride.  The people of both countries — Chinese and Koreans alike — are in that queasily familiar aggrieved mood, by which I do not mean to suggest moral equivalance for an instant, for this reason:

According to Chinese students here, the Chinese Embassy in Seoul contacted Chinese students in each college to urge them to take part in the torch relay ceremony.  [Joongang Ilbo]

I wonder if the students will tell the police the same thing, although you have to know that those flags, t-shirts, and buses didn’t appear by themselves. 

Public furor here has grown, with major broadcasters replaying the footage of the clashes and interviews with witnesses. Media reports stated that more than 10,000 Chinese people took to the streets during the 24-km relay in Seoul. Many were students studying in South Korea, while some flew from China to counter rallies by those protesting against Beijing’s recent crackdown on Tibetans, police said. [Yonhap]

South Korean conservatives are especially incensed. 

The level of common sense displayed by the Chinese hooligans is detestable, but how poorly must they view Korea and Koreans for them to treat us this way? Korean politicians until now have been unable to say what they wanted to China, while the so-called learned people in Korea, regardless of their ideology, have made it a habit of letting things quietly slip when they involve issues with China. We must ask ourselves whether this passive approach to China had led to such rude and haughty behavior by the Chinese.  [Chosun Ilbo]

One commentator is comparing Beijing 2008 to Berlin 1936, a comparison that I’d frankly call defensible.  But I suspect that this view is probably more typical of ordinary South Koreans who saw the video of the Chinese students’ behavior on TV:

“For a country hosting such a massive event, the Chinese Embassy should have paid more attention to making sure their people were under control,” said Lee Ji-young, a 30-year-old office worker in Seoul who was in the middle of the crowd watching the torch relay. “What I saw on Sunday was complete madness, and the police were so busy trying to protect the torch that they didn’t have time to protect Koreans.” [Joongang Ilbo]

And then there are South  Korea’s “netizens.”   There are thousands of angry comments, but things have gone beyond that:

Some angry Internet users have displayed signs of extremism. On one Internet bulletin board, a list containing the personal information of some of the Chinese nationals whose faces were made public via television footage of the demonstration, was posted. The information included names, schools and mobile-phone numbers. The board also contained such hostile commentary as: “Let’s protest against Chinese students” or “Find the leaders at each university.

 

On the same day, overwhelming traffic forced the Web site of the Chinese Students Association in Korea to shut down. In addition, an Internet community site was set up with the motto of punishing the Chinese nationals. The site drew some 1,000 Internet users who went through the procedure of signing up as members, a requirement of many Internet sites in Korea for access to the bulk of the information on any given Web site.  [The Hankyoreh]

Outrage on the right was to be expected. But I found it more interesting that the Korean left, too, is at least acting incensed.  The Hankyoreh called it “nothing short of lawlessness” and said this:

With behavior like that the Chinese protesters were doing their own damage to China’s dignity. They all either waved or wore Chinese flags and went about revealing nationalist tendencies with slogans and signs saying things like “Tibet is Chinese forever!” They physically attacked Koreans protesting China’s armed suppression of Tibetan protests, which was enough to prompt the people of the world to wonder whether Chinese nationalism is going so far that it is becoming violent. If the Chinese think those who express other views are to be attacked and erased, then it is nothing more than an expression of an intolerant collectivism. It was a far cry from the mature democratic society China is trying to show off through the Olympics.  [The Hankyoreh]

Here is a photograph in which a man described as the leader of a “progressive” party is demanding an apology from China.   Robert even links to a statement from Peoples’ Solidarity for Participatory Democracy accusing the Chinese government of organizing the student mobs.  This is one of the more ironic things I’ve heard all year. If PSPD is not a North Korean front group, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, and PSPD has certainly joined hands with other groups on the left that have engaged in some fairly violent means of protests. The difference being:  on those occasions, it was Koreans who were engaging in violence.

In a role reversal of 2002, Korea’s right  stands to gain from a nationalist reaction.   This time, the left  follows  and hopes for  restraint it  certainly didn’t seem interested in  six years ago. 

To a degree, this is healthy.  South Korea had become far too prosaic to  drift in  the malificent currents that China’s regime has  channeled into the authorized political culture, though China’s favorables have fallen sharply in recent times.  If the hostility exceeds a  degree of enlightened wariness and  descends into  addlebrained  provocations on both sides, it  would pit  a well-armed superpower against a much smaller and richer  nation that still hosts 29,000 U.S. military personnel.

It’s also true that the stupidity of the Chinese  who created  this melee has made a great P.R. success of a modestly attended demonstration on behalf of North Korean refugees (remember them?).  What remains to be seen is whether the focus will shift from the imperial boorishness of the Chinese to the suffering of Korea’s ragged and exploited  brothers and sisters in China.  I don’t mimimize the magnitude of China’s affront against Korea this week, yet that still pales in comparison to this:

In northern China, [Jasper] Becker joined a Chinese shopkeeper to hunt for refugees, for whom the Chinese government was paying 60 [illegibile] bounties. They found one near a garbage dump. “As the shopkeeper fished around in his pocket for some plastic twine, a dirt-covered face scabrous with pellagra that looked about fifty years old shrunk back into the shadows of a hood made from grey sackcloth, like a medieval leper,” he writes. The woman, who was in fact only 28, had crossed the border in a final effort to avoid starvation. As a prisoner, she would be sent back to North Korea, to face possible torture or even death in a labor camp. Becker bargained with the shopkeeper for her freedom, ultimately paying about $24, “the market price for a North Korean life.   [Time, Austin Ramzy]

I hope the original topic of discussion will not be lost.

Rule of Law or Rule By Law?

The Hanky has the vapors over President Lee’s plans to let the police use a bit more force against violent protestors. The plans include detailed rules on the use of force, and plans to arrest people who engage in violence and cross police lines. To this, the Hanky reacts with hyperbolic charges of a return to dictatorship:

President Lee seemed to have been encouraging the police when he said, “If foreign television programs show the nation’s unlawful, violent demonstrators wielding iron pipes, the value of the national brand will drop and the nation’s economic activities will also be affected. Lee also urged the police to make a new beginning by setting 2008 as the year to improve the culture of assemblies and demonstrations. After Lee’s Lunar New Year’s Day speech, in which he put special emphasis on the importance of law and order, the police formed a related task force in mid-January and since then have worked on making a manual whose contents include instructions for the arrest all demonstrators crossing police lines. [The Hankyoreh]

Why, it’s Kwangju all over again! (No, they really say this.) After all, if you can’t express yourself with a Molotov cocktail or an iron pipe, how can you express yourself?

I think we’ve seen enough of the effects of unilateral restraint to see how the left’s mob violence was becoming a threat to civil order, free speech, and peaceful discourse. And it’s not exclusively the left, either. Just look what a difference some discipline, training, and a few homemade flamethrowers can make:

Mostly, however, it’s the left — unions, students, and anti-American protestors — who methodically use violence to make their points and get their way. All too often, those mobs were under the sway of people who don’t favor a democratic system of government at all.

Societies must leave room for expression, but when violent expression is allowed, non-violent expression is quickly crowded out. The events in Tibet are an example of how the banning of peaceful expression fuels, and to a degree legitimizes, violence. But a society that allows peaceful expression and self-rule must also make the streets safe for it. That will require making Korean law and society less tolerant of violence.

Il Shim Hue Members Convicted, Sentenced, and Probably Confused

Somewhere, Kafka’s  spirit is smiling.   A South  Korean court  and has handed down guilty verdicts to five members of the Il Shim Hue spy ring  individuals who had coincidentally all  possessed similar loyalty oaths to the Lodestar of  the Great Korean  Race and  received their pay and instructions at a safe house at  3089 Dongxuhuayuan, 18 Shuangqiaodong-lu, Zahoyang-qu, on the outskirts of Beijing. 

Bailiff!    Read  the verdict!

A Seoul court convicted five people, including a Korean-American businessman, of spying for North Korea, but acquitted them of charges of forming a spying ring, saying the group was too loosely organized to be called a formal organization….

“The court acknowledges that Jang recruited the four accused and formed individual relationships with each of them,” said Judge Kim Dong-o, who presided over the trial. “But, it is hard to identify their group as an anti-state organization under the National Security Law because such an organization should have a certain hierarchy and system.     [Ser Myo-Ja, Joongang Ilbo]

Alrighty then.  I respectfully ask to read back the transcript of the defendant’s indictment, at which Your Honor presided:

Jang Min-ho (44), who was apprehended on charges of creating the pro-North group “Ilsimhoe,” admitted in court that he created the organization and contacted North Korean officials.

In the second round of the first hearings conducted by the 25th criminal division of the Seoul Central District Court (presided by Judge Kim Dong-o) on December 28, Jang said, “After creating a private unification project group in January 2002, it is true that we used the name Ilsimhoe for convenient reasons.

They called it a “Valentine’s Club” when communicating with their handlers in North Korea, you know.

On contact with North Korean agents, he said, “I didn’t know they were part of the espionage, but I have met North Korean officials.   [Donga Ilbo, 29 Dec 2006]

And these days,  what ordinary North Korean citizen  isn’t reading dossiers on South Korean politicians and notes of the internal deliberations of South Korean political parties?  Most likely, these guys were  looking for juicy gossip for their blogs.

The irony  of this result  is that if the Il Shim Hue case had a weakness, it wasn’t the question of the organization of this conspiracy so much as the confidentiality of the information they  sent to North Korea.  The subversion case always seemed stronger han the espionage case.  Il Shim Hue was a full-service fifth column cell.  It was at least one of  North Korea’s chosen tools for fanning the hatred of America in South Korea, for plotting  both large and small-scale  political violence, for trying to manipulate at least one very significant election, and for gaining a high degree of influence over one minor opposition party.  There’s little question that it was an active, well-organized cell whose lines of control came from Pyongyang, through Jang, by far the best paid member, down to the other members.  The information passed back to Pyongyang seems to have been a fairly minor part of their activities.  But for whatever reason, the court and the prosecution took a different path.

Even so, the defendants got hard time by Korean standards, although probably not enough to induce cooperation for a promise of leniency or parole:

Jang Min-ho, 45, also known as Michael Jang, received a nine-year prison term from the Seoul Central District Court and a 19 million won ($20,391) fine.  He took orders from a North Korean agent in China, and provided confidential information about South Korea. Jang was also convicted of possessing anti-state propaganda materials.

Four others were also convicted of cooperating with Jang and spying for North Korea.  Lee Jeong-hun, 44, a member of the Democratic Labor Party’s Seoul chapter, and Son Jeong-mok, 43, who runs a cram school teaching students how to write essays, each received six years in prison.  The court handed down a five-year prison sentence to Lee Jin-gang, 44, an office worker, and four years to Choi Gi-yeong, 40, former vice secretary general of the Democratic Labor Party.  [Joongang Ilbo, previous link]

Expect their sentences to be commuted by December, and for this investigation to stop dead in its tracks.  Shortly after this spy ring group of individuals who acted alone was discovered, at the moment when the investigation threatened to reach the Blue House itself,  the Roh Administration hastily replaced the head of the National Intelligence Service with a loyal party hack.  Jang, as you may recall, was an American and a former American  soldier who was stationed at Yongsan.  Later, his wife even got a job there, as a Lieutenant Colonel’s secretary.  Jang would be well advised to get himself an American lawyer, because he may well be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the feds.

Prosecutors said Jang created the Ilsimhoe spy ring in 2002.

Jang moved to the United States in 1982 and was introduced to the North’s ideology through a Korean-American friend there, prosecutors said.

The prosecution has said Jang visited the North in 1989 via Europe and was trained there for one week. In 1998, Jang met a North Korean agent in Beijing, China, and was ordered to create a spying organization. He then recruited the four other members, prosecutors said.

So who is appealing this odd result?  Absolutely everyone!  

Update: Speaking of sleeper agents ….

We’d All Love to See the Plan

The Korea Times tells us that the South Korean Justice Ministry, having felt the weight of criticism, has a new plan to protect the human rights of North Koreans.  It then proceeds to tell us absolutely nothing about  the plan  or provide a link to it (nothing on the MOJ site, either).  Now I  remember why I quit reading the Times.  Anyway, if it’s anything like the Human Rights Commission’s plan, I doubt  we’re missing much.

Opposition Legislator Responds to Shenyang-Gate with Refugee-Protection Bill

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s main opposition party plans to introduce a law revision aimed at helping North Koreans and South Korean abductees fleeing the communist country, a senior party official said Sunday.

Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, secretary-general of the Grand National Party (GNP), said the bill will help prevent the forced repatriation of defectors from North Korea and expedite Seoul’s diplomatic efforts to bring them to South Korea.

“The National Assembly passed a similar GNP-initiated bill in 2004 but after too much amendment. This is why the latest unfortunate event happened.” …  [link]

Under Hwang’s bill,  South Korean diplomatic facilities must investigate a refugee’s status starting immediately when he or she  claims asylum.  As things stand now, the consulate has the option of dinking around for a few weeks until  the  ChiComs can hunt down the refugees, jab wires through their noses, and leash them back to the gulag.   Of course, I should point out that similar legislation hasn’t exactly had the desired effect on U.S. consular facilities, since  our own State Department apparently does not believe that  the law  applies to it.   If this law passes, the South Korean government will also try not to obey it. 

I should also mention Hwang Woo-Yea, and the place he’s earned for himself in Korean history.   Hwang  started something called the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights several  years ago, which has members in South Korea, the United States, Japan, and Mongolia, among other places  (Yonhap says China, which has to be a misprint, and I believe the Coalition has also expanded to Europe).  He is truly South Korea’s ambassador on this issue,  doing the work that the ROK Foreign Ministry won’t.  I also have a special regard for Hwang because he’s a fellow former Judge Advocate.

Let’s hope that with Uri dying of shame, and with the GNP probing for election-year weakness, this bill will pass, and the Korean government will abide by it.

The China Veto

[Updated below]   For those who still doubt that the South Korean government would bow to another government’s sensitivities to cancel an artistic performance — witness the debate and denial over the censorship of “Yoduk Story” — I suppose we can now put those doubts to rest.

On January 7, several major South Korean media published editorials that criticized the Korean government for kowtowing to the Chinese communist regime by canceling the New Tang Dynasty’s (NTDTV) New Year Spectacular in Seoul. The criticizing media included South Korea’s most widely distributed news paper Chosun Ilbo and the Kyung Hyang Daily News, which is very influential among Korean intellectuals.

The show was cancelled just one day before its original planned date. NTDTV stated on its website that the National Theater of Korea cancelled the show because of pressure from the South Korea Ministry of Culture, which in turn has been directly pressured by the Chinese communist regime behind the scene.

The initial reason given by the theater for the cancellation was that the Chinese communist regime, who had been protesting very strongly to the the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claimed that NTDTV was an organization hostile to China. The Ministry of Culture issued an official document requesting the cancellation of the show. Later on, the Theater retracted that “the Ministry of Culture had never issued an official document” and that the show was cancelled because NTDTV did not follow the contract.

So let me see if I understand this:  completely fictional, sensationalized propa-tainment like “The Host” and  “No Gun Ri” receives government subsidies and protection, while South Korea shuts down an apolitical Chinese New Year festival and “Yoduk Story.”   We may have  the first two documented cases of the Nuclear Heckler’s Veto.

Update:  More Putinization from the Roh Administration:

President Roh Moo-hyun on Tuesday instructed his Cabinet to open an investigation into whether South Korean media organizations are colluding to distort his government’s policies.

In an unusually bitter criticism against local media, the president said Korean news organizations pose the strongest resistance to his government’s society-wide reform programs.

How will “progressives” like the new official contempt from free speech  if Lee Myung Bak inherits this extraordinary new power?  Something tells me that Lee won’t take a very restrained approach in throttling his opponents.