East Asia Research Center에 기고된 내용으로 승낙을 받고 게시합니다.
Tara O, Ph.D.
Adjunct Fellow, Pacific Forum
Fellow, Institute for Corean-American Studies
Using lawsuits to silence the critics in South Korea is a growing phenomenon. Blue House Chief of Staff, Im Jong-seok sued a researcher Dr. Ji Man-won for libel for calling Im “the godfather of jusapa” and “an extreme communist.” Journalist Byun Hee-jae was sued for libel for pointing out JTBC’s fabricated tablet PC story, a narrative that played a major role in the former president Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Another journalist Kim Se-ui and a cartoonist Yoon Seo-in are sued for libel for “pointing out the truth.” Adding to the list: South Korean President Moon sued Koh Young-ju (고영주) for libel and damage for calling him (Moon) “a communist.”
In September 2015, then National Assemblyman Moon jae-in, sued Koh Young-ju for calling him a communist in 2013. In addition to the civil lawsuit, the prosecutors pursued this case in a criminal court later. The claim for damages (Docket Number: 2015가단160303) was handled at a civil court; the criminal libel case, currently on appeal by the prosecution, is being handled in criminal court.
Who is Ko Young-ju, and what did he do?
Koh Youngju is a former public prosecutor with 28 years of experience and former Chairman of the Foundation for Broadcast Culture (FBC, 방송문화진흥회), which selects the president of MBC, a major news network in South Korea. (To read about forcing out Koh Young-ju and others from the FBC and the hostile takeover of MBC by the Moon administration and Media Workers’ Union, click here.)
Koh said “If Moon “is elected president, it’s a matter of time before our country becomes a communist country” in 2013 when Moon was the presidential candidate for Democratic United Party (DUP, 민주통합당). DUP is a merger of the Democratic Party (민주당) and Citizens Unity Party (시민통합당). DUP is the predecessor to the current Deoburreo Minju Party (더불어민주당), which calls itself the Democratic Party of Korea in English.
The criminal prosecutor said, “The defendant has defamed the accuser, President Moon, based on false facts.” “The people, who think the defendant’s statements are true, even spread the word ‘Moon Jae-in is a communist’ through social networks.” Ko responded that he did not defame Moon. Koh stood by what he said.
According to Korean defamation law, it is the defendant, not the plaintiff, who must prove that libel did not occur. Truth is not necessarily a defense, and unlike the U.S., a libel case is a criminal, in addition to a civil case. Koh submitted a 40-page statement with 500-600 pages of documents to support his assertions.
Koh Young-ju’s explanation
Koh defined “communists” as those who advocate for North Korea and defend North Korea for incidents like the Cheonan sinking. Based on his investigations of various cases over his decades-long career, Koh became convinced that Moon was a communist. Koh said “if I don’t speak out first, no one would know, and I felt the country would face danger.”
In 2013, Koh said “The Burim incident (of 1981) was not a democracy movement, but a communist movement. Koh recollected what a suspect in the Burim (부림) case told him: “We are getting investigated by you now, but soon, communism will be here. Then the history will change and the records will change. When communism arrives, we’ll be the ones judging you.” Koh added that both Rho Moo-hyun and Moon Jae-in must have known that the Burim incident was a communist movement, because as their lawyers, they read all the related documents.
In fact, Moon Jae-in said in an interview in a May 9, 2008 video titled “Lawyer who Makes Good Income and Burim Case” (돈 잘 버는 변호사와 부림사건) (1:53):
As their lawyer, [Rho Moo-hyun] read all their [his clients arrested in the Burim case] books, which were numerous…and I see that [through reading all the books], he had a change of beliefs on his own. After that, [Rho] defended various political cases, participated in underground movements, and directly participated in street protests…Our professors, lawyers… participated a lot with activist organizations. We participated by helping financially from the background and also acting as shields, and defended them in courts when there were cases.
Koh stated that in his 28 years of prosecutor experience, he had covered the Korean Federation of Student Councils (Hanchongryun, 한총련), the Korean Teachers & Educational Workers’ Union (Jeongyojo, 전교조), Unified Progressive Party (UPP, 통합진보당), among others (explained later). “To say that my conviction that president Moon is a communist is false ignores my public service experience in its entirety” Koh said.
At his final trial on July 26, 2018, Koh also pointed out that “after the inauguration, the Plaintiff (President Moon Jae-in):
brought in the alumns of Jeondaehyeop, Hanchongrryun, and other Jusapa activists and concentrated them in key positions in the Cheong Wa Dae (Blue House) Secretariat
[Jusapa (Juche Sasangpa): Those who swore allegiance to Kim Il-sung & Kim Jong-il, who want to achieve socialism/communism through revolution under North Korea’s juche ideology or Kim family leadership, and see the U.S. as an imperial power and its presence as an obstacle to unification. Jusapa dominated Jeondaehyeop and Hanchonngnyun (further explanation below).]
Accepted Deouburreo Minju Party Representative Chu Mi-ae’s demands for nationalization of land
[Chu Mi-ae has repeatedly talked about nationalizing the land. Chu Mi-ae has also threatened to find out and sue those who referred to Moon Jae-in as “Moon Jae-ang”–”Jae-ang” means disaster–in online comments.]
Accepted the Special Envoy for Foreign Affairs and National Security Moon Chung-in’s statements on the destruction of the U.S.-ROK alliance and withdrawal of the U.S. forces
[Moon Chung-in said “What will happen to U.S. forces in South Korea if a peace treaty is signed? It will be difficult to justify their continuing presence in South Korea after its adoption” among others.]
Pursued an outspoken pro-China and anti-U.S. line (including the three “no’s” 1. No additional THAAD deployment, 2. No joining the U.S. missile defense system, 3. No joining a trilateral alliance with the U.S. and Japan)
Abolished the National Intelligence Service’s (NIS) counter-North Korea investigation authority and neutralized NIS counter-intelligence capability
[The Chairman for the Committee to Advance the Reform of National Intelligence Service, appointed by Moon, said the “problem” with the NIS is “NIS identifying itself with catching North Korean agents.” He then took away that capability.]
Koh questioned whether “the Plaintiff (President Moon), in spite of his conscience, can still claim that he is not a communist; that he has not supported and followed North Korea’s beliefs and assertions; and that the Republic of Korea will not be taken over by enemy forces (communized under North Korea) even though he (Moon) operates the affairs of the state according to his (Moon’s) wishes.”
An explanation about Hanchongryun, Jeondaehyeop, Jeongyojo, Tongjindang
Here are brief background of these organizations.
South Korean Federation of Student Councils (Hanchongnyun, 한국대학총학생회연합 or 한총련 for short)
The court ruled that Hanchongryun is an “ijeok” group–a group that aids the enemy of the state, i.e., North Korea. Essentially, ijeok is a treasonous group. Hanchongryun has taken an anti-U.S. stance, describing the U.S. as an imperial power and calling for U.S. forces withdrawal and the establishment of a Goryo Federation (a formula for unification under North Korea). Hanchongryun members have illegally entered multiple U.S. military bases and burnt U.S. flags, including the one below at Rodriguez Range where a U.S. Army Stryker Brigade was training. The group has also demonstrated in front of and threw eggs toward Grand National Party (한나라당) offices.
|Hanchongnyun students illegally entered a U.S. base and called for U.S. withdrawal on 2003-8-7. In this photo, the Hanchongnyun members tried to take the U.S. flag to burn it, and a soldier tried to retrieve it.|
One of its leaders, Dae Shik-yoo, had described Kim Jong-il as “an outstanding leader” and that “only North Korea can stand up to the U.S.”
Many of the Hanchonghyun members joined the Federation for Unification of the Motherland and Common (Korean) People (rough translation of Beommin, 조국통일범민족연합 or 범민 for short), which was designated an ijeok entity by the Constitutional Court.
National Council of Student Representatives (Jeondaehyeop, 전국대학생대표자협의회 or 전대협 for short)
Jeondaehyeop was Hanchongryun’s former entity. Jeondaehyeop was controlled by the National Liberation (NL) faction–they looked up to Kim Il-sung and North Korea to bring about socialism/communism in South Korea and unify the peninsula, and saw the U.S. as an impediment to achieving unification under the North Korean system. The 3rd president of Jeondaehyeop was Im Jong-seok, the current Blue House Chief of Staff in the Moon Jae-in administration, who orchestrated a fellow student Lim Su-Kyung’s illegal visit to North Korea in 1989, where she met with Kim Il-sung. Im also created the South-North Economic and Cultural Cooperation Foundation (남북경제문화협력재단) in 2005 to collect royalties in South Korea on behalf of the North Korean government for North Korea’s TV footage. In 2010, he wrote the “Politics of Loving Comrade Letter” showing deference to Kim Jong-il and praising Kim and his Songun (military first) policy.
Jeondaehyeop’s 4th president was Song Gap-seok, who said “I respect Kim Il-sung. I am delighted whenever I see him on TV and he looks healthy and robust.” “North Korea is the only legitimate government on the Korean Peninsula, which guarantees justice and sovereignty, and only the unification by North Korea is the genuine motherland unification” (3:09). Song was also the Chairman of the Gwangju Regional Committee of the Rho Moo-hyun Foundation and the Deputy Chief Administrator (2:39) of Moon Jae-in’s presidential campaign. As the recently elected National Assemblyman, Deoburreo Minju Party, he proposed to change the law to rename those abducted to North Korea against their will after the Korean War from “abductees” to “missing,” because “North Korea was repulsed” by the term abductee.
In addition to Im and Song, there are numerous other Jeondaehyeop alumns in the Blue House, the National Assembly, top Provincial and city government positions, and elsewhere.
Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union (Jeongyojo, 전국교직원노동조합 or 전교조 for short).
The court ruled Jeongyojo as an illegal labor union in 2013. It falls under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (Min-no-chong, 전국민주노동조합총연맹 or 민노총 for short). Jeongyojo had made materials for elementary, middle, and high school students that advocate anti-U.S. sentiment, abolition of the National Security Law, the withdrawal of the U.S. forces, and unification through federation as well as accepting North Korea’s Songun policy.
Jeongyojo has influence over the content in textbooks and has propagated false or distorted history. For instance, instead of North Korea attacking South Korea, as the start of the Korean War, Jeongyojo maintains that North Korea was attacked. It also blames the U.S. for the division of the Korean Peninsula. It does not mention the role of Russia, China, and North Korea in dividing the Korean Peninsula or their support for North Korea in instigating and prolonging the Korean War.
Jeongyojo’s role is especially important as it shapes the youth’s and the future generation’s beliefs and the way they view the world around them.
Unified Progressive Party (UPP, Tongjindang or 통합진보당 or 통진당 for short)
The Constitutional Court disbanded UPP in 2014 for sedition. It had a handful of members, all of whom became lawmakers at the National Assembly as proportional representatives (not voted by the people, but appointed by the party they partnered with). Lee Seok-gi met with 130 people on May 12, 2013 at a church, where he advocated the destruction of national infrastructure within South Korea, such as communications, oil storage, and gas pipelines in case of a war with North Korea. This is the same position as that of North Korea. Lee said that such acts “destroy the U.S. imperialism and realize self-reliant unification.”
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) accused Lee Seok-gi and others at UPP of planning a “communist revolution in South Korea” by using all means of legal / non-compliance, violence and non-violence for the purpose of overthrowing the South Korean government and its system. The Constitutional Court ruled Lee guilty of inciting rebellion and violating the National Security Law and sentenced him to nine years in prison.
The UPP has also consistently defended North Korea in its provocations. For instance, it expressed “regret for UN sanctions against North Korea” (1:03) after North Korea’s third nuclear test in February 2013. UPP also stated “the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island is a tragedy born out of Lee Myung-bak’s North Korea policy. It [the shelling] occurred because the 10.4 declaration [agreement between Rho Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il] was not implemented” (7:10).
The Constitutional Court also pointed out that UPP’s federation-to-unification model in its creed matches North Korea’s Goryo Federation formulation, which begins with a low-level federation and ultimately leads to a North Korea-dominated unified Korea. For further details on how a low-level federation could lead to a North Korea-dominated unified Korea, see the pdf here.
Professor Yang Dong-an’s Statement Submitted to the Court
Professor Emeritus Yang Dong-an (양동안) developed 11 distinct characteristics of communists that are found in their statements and acts, and submitted his findings to the court. In searching through the press, statements, and other documents, Yang was surprised to find that Moon met all 11 criteria, including the first criterion. Yang stated:
Mr. Moon Jae-in explicitly supported the same issues the North Korean Communist regime has pursed to unify under its system: the abolition of the National Security Law, the unification through federation, the signing of a peace treaty between the U.S. and North Korea, and the dissolution of the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Moon also sympathized with North Korea on the U.S. forces withdrawal from Korea and the dismantling of the ROK-U.S. alliance in a vague way.
Yang explained in his document some of Moon’s activities and statements:
1. Insisted on abolishing National Security Law
Moon Jae-in wrote in his book Fate (운명) (Kagyo Publishing Co., 2011), “It was extremely painful to not be able to abolish the National Security Law while I was the Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs twice” (Fate, 327-328) and has said the “National Security Law should be abolished” in other interviews.
2. Insisted on establishing a Low-level federation with North Korea
Moon Jae-in has been receptive to federation. In an interview with the Hankook Ilbo (한국일보) on February 12, 2011, he said, “Through (the accomplishments of) Kim Dae-jung and the Roh Moo-hyun administrations, we’re now hopeful that we can achieve confederation or a low-level federation.” On August 20, 2012 during the 3rd commemoration event for Kim Dae-jung at the National Cemetery in Seoul, Moon said, “I will achieve without fail the confederation or low-level federation that former president Kim Dae-jung dreamt about during the next administration through a power change in the government.”
3. Insisted that the U.S. and North Korea sign a peace treaty
North Korea has been insisting that the U.S. and North Korea sign a peace treaty, and Moon has been receptive. In a special interview commemorating the 12th anniversary of the launch of Tongil News in 2012, Mr.Moon said, “In the process of discarding the North Korean nuclear issue, we will dismantle the Cold War structure, normalize relations between North Korea and the U.S. and North Korea and Japan, break up the South-North confrontational structure, and shift the armistice to a peace treaty.
4. Agreed with the dissolution of the National Intelligence Service (NIS)
On September 23, 2013, Moon Jae-in participated in the “National Prayer Meeting for the Demolition of NIS and the Restoration of Democracy” hosted by the Catholic Priests Association for [the realization of] Justice (CPAJ) at the Seoul City Hall grounds. CPAJ insisted “the NIS has no further reason to exist. It must be dismantled immediately” in its declaration. Participation in this kind of rally implies that Moon has at least sympathy with the dissolution of the NIS.
5. Agreed with the U.S. forces withdrawal and anti-U.S.-ROK alliance
In a special interview announcing the 12th anniversary of the launching of Tongil News on December 5, 2012, Moon Jae-in said, “At the inter-Korean summit in 2000, Chairman Kim Jong-il also graciously acknowledged the existence of the U.S. forces in South Korea and offered an assessment that the U.S. Forces also have a positive role in the stability of Northeast Asia.” As a consequence, we are not considering the issue of the U.S. forces withdrawal.” This statement implies that the issue of U.S. forces withdrawal is not being considered because Kim Jong-il acknowledges it, but at the same time, it also implies that the issue will be considered if Kim Jong-il demands it [the withdrawal of the U.S. forces in the future.]
[Contrary to Moon’s statement,] North Korean authorities said Kim Jong-il never assessed the U.S. forces in Korea positively at the inter-Korea summit, and at this time, they actively demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Korea, and one of the core issues of the transition from armistice to a peace treaty is the U.S. forces withdrawal. Given these two points [implying that he would consider the U.S. forces withdrawal if the North Korean leader wants it and North Korea stating that its leader never said what Moon said about Kim’s positive assessment of the U.S. forces in Korea]], it is as if Mr. Moon argued for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Korea.
On the other hand, the Busan Unification Solidarity, in which Moon was one of the joint delegates, decided to carry out a “anti-relocation of U.S. forces in Korea and the struggle against [the] strengthening of the ROK-U.S. alliance” at the Implementation Committee in July 2004. This [anti-U.S. forces in Korea] decision by Busan Unification Solidarity suggests that Moon Jae-in has indirectly agreed with the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Korea and the dismantling of the ROK-U.S. alliance.
※ It’s not pursuing just one or two of the above items, but all five that causes one to suspect that the person pursuing them is a pro-North Korea follower.
For detailed description of Yang’s statement submitted to the court (translated version), see here. Yang submitted his findings to the court in September 26, 2016.
The Moon administration and his party have also made efforts to change the constitution, including trying to delete the concept of freedom by deleting “liberal” from “liberal democracy as a basic order” of the Republic of Korea as well as a unified Korea. Due to strong resistance from the opposition party, Liberty Korea Party, it did not occur, but his spokesperson vowed to change it by the end of this year. Moon did succeed in deleting “liberal” from the textbooks, leaving just “democracy,” which North Korea also uses–”democracy” in ”people’s democracy.”
The verdict: Civil Court
On September 16, 2016, Judge Kim Jin-hwan (김진환) of Seoul Central District Court for Civil Case ruled in favor of Moon, ordering Ko to pay 30,000,000 Won (about $27,000).
Ko later discovered that Judge Kim Jin-hwan was a member of Uribeop Yeon-goo-hoe (우리법연구회; rough translation: our law research association). The law association, along with Jeongyojo and Min-no-chong, formed the foundation of the Rho Moo-hyun administration and his party (Cho, 2005, p. 37). During the Rho administration, the Rho’s key staff felt that they could “change the world through court trials” and placed many of the Uribeop Yeon-goo-hoe (우리법 연구회) members in the judiciary branch and the Constitutional Court. Ko said “I cannot agree with the judgment because, in the end, it is the same as if the Minju Party filed a lawsuit and the Minju Party ruled” on the case.
The verdict: Criminal Court
On July 26, 2018, the prosecutor asked for a year and a half prison sentence for Ko. On August 23, 2018, Judge Kim Kyoung-Jin (김경진) of Seoul Central District Court for Criminal Case ruled that Ko is not guilty. This was a surprise not so much because there was any weight to the case or even a serious justification for having gone to the court in the first place, but because so many others who are on Moon’s “blacklist” have been found guilty, often despite the absence of evidence, and have received heavy jail sentences.
Ko responded to a reporter:
I am so thankful that there is a judge who still has conscience and courage in the court, and feel fortunate for our Korea’s future…The judiciary has shown bias, giving not guilty verdicts to those on the left and guilty verdicts to those on the right. I hope that this decision provides an opportunity for the judiciary to become a fair one.
Another concern about the legal system at large was due to the way another high-profile “Druking” case had been handled. The Druking case is an online public opinion manipulation case involving social media trolls, sockpuppetry, and other methods. Druking’s activities were linked to Moon’s presidential election in 2017 and potentially to the impeachment of former president Park Geun-hye.
The special prosecutor Huh Ik-beom (허익범), who was investigating the “Druking” case, could not get an arrest warrant for a key suspect, Kim Kyoung-soo, due to the judge’s rejection. Kim is the recently elected South Kyongsang Province Governor and a close associate of President Moon. Kim played a key role in Moon’s presidential election campaign for the 2017 election. Huh also received threats from the Deoburreo Minju Party and the Justice Party. During the investigation, there was also a death of a national assemblyman, Rho Hoe-chan, who is said to have jumped off a building after leaving a note in which he admitted receiving money from Druking’s group, but that there was no favor given for the money, and to implore that his Justice Party be protected. Huh decided not to request an extension to continue the investigation. This is the first time a special prosecutor did not ask for an extension since the system of special prosecution was created. To extend the investigation, he must get an approval from the president, who has the authority to grant a 30-day extension. It is thought that the political pressure and obstacles were too great for the special prosecution team to continue with the investigation further.
Thus, in this atmosphere, it was a surprise that Koh received a “not guilty” verdict. However, Deoburreo Minju Party was upset and criticized the court’s decision on the Deoburreo Minju party’s website on the same day as the verdict. The Public Affairs office of the Deoburreo Minju party stated that the court’s remarks that “the expression ‘communist’ refers to those who secretly communicate with the North Korean regime, but it also refers to those who are friendly to North Korean regime and pursues appeasing policy” was “wrong by [the] people’s standards.” The party then threatened the judge by stating “the court’s arbitrary interpretation regarding President Moon Jae-in is yet another defamation.”
It is not over for Koh Young-ju yet, since his case is in appeals.
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