News / Asia

South Korea Rejects North's Terrorism Allegations

South Korea is calling “ridiculous” a North Korean claim that activists based in Seoul are behind alleged acts of sabotage in the North.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says police and the National Intelligence Service are taking necessary measures to protect four people, including a freshman lawmaker, threatened by Pyongyang.

In an unusual announcement Tuesday, North Korea accused the four people of plotting to blow up statues and commit other acts of attempted terrorism.  It said they would not be able to escape merciless punishment.

Ministry spokeswoman Park Soo-jin says there is no truth to the North's allegations and they do not merit a response.

Park says Pyongyang is making groundless charges that defectors from North Korea are engaged in kidnappings and terrorism.

One of those named by North Korea is Cho Myung-chul, a defector and freshman lawmaker (from the ruling Saenuri Party) who says he feels devastated by the allegation.

Cho tells reporters at the National Assembly this is a brutal pronouncement from Pyongyang and he says its threats against those in South Korea are inexcusable.

Two other defectors, Kim Song-min, the founder of Radio Free North Korea, and Park Sang-hak, who floats leaflets by balloons to North Korea, were threatened by Pyongyang along with high-profile activist, Kim Young-hwan.

Kim Young-hwan was formerly the leader of an underground leftist party, and a long-time polarizing figure on the Korean peninsula. In the 1980s he helped lead demonstrations against the dictatorship then in power in Seoul. He was imprisoned in South Korea for two years. In 1991 he was smuggled twice by submarine to North Korea to meet the country's founder, Kim Il Sung. But he later became a fierce critic of North Korea's repressive system.
 
In the statement broadcast by Pyongyang radio Tuesday  Kim was singled out as a “heinous nation-selling bastard.”
 
Kim Young-hwan and two colleagues were arrested in China on March 29. They were held there until July 20 on charges of endangering national security.

Kim has told local media Chinese security officers tortured him with a cattle prod and threatened to send him to North Korea.  He says that as a condition for his release, his captors tried to force him to sign a statement denying any mistreatment and admitting he violated Chinese law.

Kim says he wants the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into his allegations. He says he also plans to file civil lawsuits against Chinese authorities.

Kim has said he was visiting the country merely to collect information on human rights in North Korea and to aid refugees from the North who are in China. He has denied reports he was also attempting to set up the defection of a senior North Korean official.

South Korea's foreign ministry, facing pressure from rights groups, announced Tuesday it plans to interview about 600 other citizens to determine whether they were also mistreated in Chinese jails.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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