Post-NDRP: From Yeongnam with Love

[In the Shadow of the Sun]
Han Ki Hong, President, NKnet  |  2014-08-25 15:11

In May 2010 a call came into 111 Call Center, where the NIS, South Koreas state intelligence agency, accepts civilian reports of threats to national security. The caller asserted something very serious: that remnants of Minhyukdang, an underground pro-North Korea organization that had been active in the 1990s, had returned to their old ways.

Three years later, the report was found to be accurate. A serving National Assemblyman and former Minhyukdang cadre called Lee Seok Ki had, it was said, formed a new Revolutionary Organization. 130 members of this so-called RO had met at a location in Hapjeong-dong, Seoul during May 2013, a time of great inter-Korean tensions. There they had, the court would later acknowledge, discussed concrete means of fomenting unrest and overthrowing the South Korean state in the event of war. Seven men were convicted; appeals are ongoing.

The simple fact that this could take place in contemporary South Korea often comes as a surprise to Daily NK readers, most of whom have never been steeped in the Cold War milieu of the Korean Peninsula. Yet it is just the most recent in a long line of extraordinary tales of infiltration and espionage, as Zeitgeist Publishing House revealed in 2012 when it released Han Ki Hong's The Shadow of Progressivism". The book seized upon a moment in South Korean history, and was enormously successful. In this, the eighth part of an exclusive series of excerpts, Daily NK finds out why.

Post-NDRP: The Yeongnam Committee Incident of 1998

In July 1998, police in South Koreas south coast second city of Busan announced that they had arrested and were investigating 16 members of left wing civic and labor organizations from nearby Ulsan on suspicion of violating the states controversial National Security Law.

According to the police, the group had, following the formation of the Anti-Imperialist Youth League back in 1989, formed the South Gyeongsang Province [Yeongnam] Committee in 1992. Under its auspices, they were accused of disseminating materials benefiting North Korea and instigating illegal labor strikes in Busan and Ulsan. 

Park Kyeong Soon, who ran Neulpureun Bookstore whilst heading the Committee, Kim Chang Hyeon, who, as head of East Ulsan District Office, was a government official as well as a Committee member, and the rest were soon prosecuted. Park received 15 years in jail and Kim 7 years. Jung Dae Yeon, formerly of the Ulsan Coalition for Democratic National Unification, and Im Dong Seok of the labor group Forward 2001 got 8-9 years. Park Seong Su of the Ulsan branch of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the remaining defendants all received between 3 and 4-year sentences.

However, in August 1999 the Supreme Court in Seoul ruled that the evidence used to convict the men was insufficient to prove that they had formed an anti-state organization. Eventually, they applied only the charge of forming an organization benefiting the enemy. Park's sentence fell to seven years, and Kim's to two.

From the period following his release right up to early 2012, Park worked as deputy head of a policy research center affiliated with the ultra-left wing Democratic Labor Party (DLP). While there, he wrote an article entitled, "Analysis and Prospects for the Chosun Workers' Party Delegates' Conference." In it, he said of the North Korean conference, which took place on September 28th, 2010 in Pyongyang:

We don't have any information on the selection process of Kim Jong Eun. There is absolutely no material upon which to make a judgment [] North Korea has its own unique succession theory [] Based on National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Ils experience, their succession theory [] appears to have the approval of a large majority of the North Korean people.

Thereafter, Park became vice-president of the Progressive Policy Research Center, which is run by the Unified Progressive Party.

At the time of the incident, Kim Chang Hyeon had been a sitting government official, so local people were understandably surprised to find him violating the National Security Law and spending two years in prison. Regardless, after emerging from his incarceration in July 2000, Kim served on presidential candidate Kwon Young Gil's election campaign in 2002, and in 2004 as secretary-general of the Democratic Labor Party and chair of a party chapter in Ulsan. In April 2012 he ran as a Unified Progressive Party candidate for the National Assembly in a northern district of Ulsan, but lost. 

This Donga Ilbo article from July 27, 1998 concerns the arrest of Kim Chang Hyeon.
| Image: Destination Pyongyang/Naver

Post-NDRP: Later Activities of Key Players

Kim Young Hwan (once known as Gwanaksan-1) had ideologically parted with North Korea before the criminal investigation into the NDRP began, and had even gone so far as to make overthrowing the North Korean regime his aim. In the process of the investigation, the fact that Kim had already verifiably changed his position and sought to persuade others to do the same was taken into account; his prosecution was suspended.

Thereafter, Kim jumped fully into North Korean democratization activities and, in 1998, joined Han Ki Hong, the author of this book, Hong Jin Pyo, Jo Hyeok, and other 386-Generation converts to launch the bimonthly publication Sidae Jeongsin (Zeitgeist). This groundbreaking journal advocated North Korean democratization and the restoration of Korean ideals; a new Zeitgeist, if you will.

A year later in 1999, Kim took a leading role in the formation of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet), the first NGO to take as its goal the realization of democracy and human rights in North Korea. For its first decade of advocating for North Korean human rights, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea awarded NKnet the Republic of Korea Human Rights Prize at the end of 2009. Kim Young Hwan serves as NKnet's chief researcher and one of the editors of the (now-quarterly) Sidae Jeongsin. He gives public lectures and writes; at the end of 2011 he published "Post-Kim Jong Il" in the immediate aftermath of Kim Jong Il's death. He is now writing about his life as an activist and arrest by the Chinese Ministry of State Security two years ago.

Kim Young Hwan's liaison with North Korea, Jo Yu Sik (aka Gwancheolbong), founded and has been running the online bookstore Aladdin since before the NDRP was unmasked. The authorities recognized his conversion alongside that of Kim Young Hwan, and chose not to prosecute. He continues to devote himself to his business, which has grown into one of the biggest independent online bookstores in South Korea.

Ha Young Ok received an 8-year sentence in September 1999 for his role at the top of the NDRP. During his trial, Ha alleged that investigators had beaten him to extract information. In April 2003 he was given a presidential pardon and emerged from prison in Daejeon. Since then his activities, aside from teaching math at a private institute and occasional appearances in left wing media outlets, have been unknown.

The political editor of the monthly leftist magazine Mal, Kim Kyeong Hwan (formerly known as Gwanmobong), was sentenced to 4 and a half years in jail for maintaining contact with and aiding North Korean agents. In 2002, while serving his sentence, he published a book, "A Bird Who Dreams of Soaring Looks Down Upon the Earth. He was released in April 2003 and by the end of the first decade of the 2000s was director of public relations for The Hope Institute, which markets itself as a citizen participatory research institute. 

Southern Gyeonggi Province Committee Chairman Lee Seok Ki went into hiding for three years after the authorities unveiled the NDRP, but was arrested in May 2002. He was given a presidential pardon on Independence Day (August 15th) in 2003. Afterwards he worked as a director of the NL (National Liberation)-leaning online media site Voice of the People [VoP; Minjung-ui Sori] and founded the Social Trend Institute, which conducts public opinion surveys.

In the 2012 general election for the National Assembly Lee was the second proportional representation candidate on the Unified Progressive Party ticket. He won the controversial election and became a member of the National Assembly, but soon found himself embroiled in a nationwide controversy over alleged attempts to form a Revolutionary Organization, RO, and discuss, though not action, plans to overthrow the Republic of Korea. 

Lee Eui Yeob, chairman of the Busan Regional Committee of the NDRP, was arrested and imprisoned in September 2000. Released in 2001, he later became active in labor union education and organizing. In 2008 he ran for the National Assembly in the Geumjung district of Busan, but lost.

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