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We, the undersigned, express deep concern over the arrest of six reunification and peace movement activists, who were members of Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification (PKAR), on May 7, 2009. They were arrested by the National Intelligence Service of the South Korean government and charged with ‘communication with the enemy’ and ‘enemy-benefiting activities’, under the infamous and outdated National Security Law.
We understand that each arrested activist, namely, Choi Eun-A, Lee Kyu-Jae, Lee Kyeong-Won, Jang Yoon-Kyeong, Yoon Joo-Hyung, and Oh Soon-Wan, has been a part of the reunification movement in South Korea as member of PKAR and various other progressive organizations. PKAR was established in 1991 as part of efforts for reconciliation and solidarity among South Koreans, North Koreans and overseas Koreans. It has openly worked for reunification and has been transparent about its communications with North Korea.
Although at times during its history, PKAR has faced hostile opposition from right wing groups and was even labeled an ‘enemy-benefiting’ organization under the right wing government in 1995, it has long been a respected organization which is actively engaged in civil and cultural exchanges with the Northern counterpart. This is especially so since the historic meeting of Kim Jong-Il (NK) and Kim Dae-Jung (SK) on June 15, 2000 that renewed dialogue and efforts for reunification. Especially, we note that communication with the enemy has been conducted for the last eight years under the Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun administrations without being charged by the National Security Law. This clearly sheds light on the absurdity of the recent actions by the Lee Myung Bak administration of arresting people for ‘communicating with the enemy’.
It has been reported that the six people are being held at the Seoul Detention Center, which is an illegal practice while people are under investigation. Furthermore, they have already been issued prison numbers. These are clear violations of their civil rights and such actions by the unpopular Lee Myung Bak administration, that has already shown its disregard for human rights (i.e. police oppression of candlelight protests and crackdown on tenants in Yongsan that resulted in the death of five people), causes concern for their safety.
The set of laws under the NSL represent an antiquated system of controlling people with fear and violence that has no place in a democratic society. It is the unfortunate result of the Cold War that needs to be repealed. Furthermore, using the NSL at this time to criminalize the work of peace activists bears too a similar resemblance to the period when South Korea was ruled by a military dictatorship. Administrations of both Koreas should be working towards reunification and peace on the peninsula, not criminalizing the individuals who do.
We, the undersigned, demand the immediate release of the six prisoners. We also demand the repeal of the National Security Law and an end to governmental repression of a civil and peaceful reunification movement.