Category Archives: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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