News / Asia

    Rights Group Criticizes S. Korean Security Law

    Park Jun-geun's twitter page @seouldecadencePark Jun-geun's twitter page @seouldecadence
    x
    Park Jun-geun's twitter page @seouldecadence
    Park Jun-geun's twitter page @seouldecadence
    Jason Strother
    The human rights group Amnesty International says a South Korean law that is meant to stop the spread of pro North Korean propaganda, limits freedom of speech.  Thursday, the rights group released a report condemning the long-standing National Security Law and urging Korean politicians to abolish it.  But, South Korea’s next president will be unlikely to do so.

    Park Jung-geun says he is no fan of the North Korean government. But the 24-year-old South Korean was recently found guilty of supporting the Pyongyang government. He says he was only trying to make a joke on the social networking service Twitter

    Park (@seouldecadence on Twitter) explains all he did was re-tweet a message that originally came from a pro-North Korean website. He thought the message was funny.  

    Last year, Park was arrested for sending that message on the social networking site. He spent 40 days in detention and his computer was seized by the South Korean authorities. A judge in Suwon ruled last week that Park had violated the National Security Law and handed down a suspended 10-month prison sentence.  Park is free now, but faces jail time if he violates the law again.

    Park says the National Security Law violates his and many others’ freedom of speech.
    He says people should be allowed to express themselves.  And, he says that in particular, provisions of the law that outlaw praising North Korea are being abused by the government.

    The human rights group, Amnesty International, agrees. On Thursday, the group used a news conference to release a report that condemns South Korea’s National Security Law.

    Amnesty’s South Korea director, Kal Sangdon, says under President Lee Myung-bak’s administration investigations into alleged pro-North Korea activity have been on the rise.

    Kal says the National Security Law is being used to limit freedom of expression, especially online.  He says that in 2011, 67,300 posts on message boards were deleted because they were deemed to praise North Korea, or were critical of the United States and/or South Korean governments. That is almost a five-fold increase from just two years earlier.     

    Despite the increase in the number of investigations, the number of actual convictions remains relatively low.  According to government statistics, there were 90 police investigations in 2011, but only 19 South Koreans were imprisoned for violating the National Security Law.

    Kal says for these reasons, Amnesty believes the law is being used to intimidate individuals and institutions that are critical of Lee Myung-bak’s North Korea policy.

    Rajiv Narayan, Amnesty International’s East Asia director, says to prevent further abuses, it is time for the South Korean government to reform the law.

    “We are launching this document at a time when a new president will be elected on the 19th of December," Narayan explained. "We are calling on candidates to take a historic decision to support abolition of the National Security Law or fundamentally reform it in line with South Korea’s international obligations and commitments.”

    But revoking or limiting the National Security Law is not an issue that concerns most voters.  That is according to Kim Chang-nam, who lectures in the communications department at Seoul’s Sungkonghoe University.

    Kim says South Korean people have received anti-Communist education for so long that the National Security Law seems normal.  A politician would not be able to gain more votes by challenging the law during the campaign.

    Kim says if conservative candidate Park Geun-hye wins the election, he expects enforcement of the National Security Law to remain the same as under her predecessor. But, he says if the progressive candidate Moon Jae-in wins, there could be some changes.

    He says, at best, there is the possibility the law could be modified.  But he does not see it being abandoned

    Park Jung-geun, the young man who was found guilty of violating the National Security Law, says from now on he will refrain from saying anything about North Korea on social media.

    He says many South Koreans are scared to use Twitter.  And, he says, he has lost interest in it

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora