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Underground communist groups in S.Korea

Posted August. 01, 2011 03:10,   


Prosecutors have charged South Korean nationals with spying for North Korea by setting up an underground communist group dubbed “Wangjaesan.” The incident will create significant repercussions since those arrested include a figure affiliated with an opposition party who serves as an aide to a former National Assembly speaker. More than 40 figures in opposition parties including the progressive Democratic Labor Party are also being investigated on suspicions of espionage.

They include heads of municipal and provincial governments and members of local councils, former and incumbent senior party members, and union leaders. South Korean intelligence said the anti-state group has collected and delivered information on South Korean political parties and labor organizations and military secrets to the North. The organization is also known to have attempted to establish a sweeping network in political, business and academic circles.

The Democratic Labor Party has blasted the crackdown, saying, “The Lee Myung-bak administration is suppressing progressive forces with public security issues,” adding, “This is the government’s last struggle to avoid public judgment in parliamentary and presidential elections next year by making a dent in the Democratic Labor Party.” This is not the first time for the progressive party to be implicated in espionage, however. In August 2003, party adviser Kang Tae-seop was sentenced to imprisonment for delivering information to a North Korean figure. In October 2006, senior party members including one on the central committee and the vice secretary-general were convicted for their involvement in the spy ring “Ilsimhoe.” In July 2009, the party’s director for non-regular workers was indicted for posting a pro-North Korea message on the Internet. Despite this, the Democratic Labor Party is launching a political offensive by claiming the government is “trampling on opposition parties.” Such an act, however, constitutes obstruction of investigation and even protection of suspects.

Since its inception in 2001, the labor party has produced several lawmakers, municipal and provincial government heads and council members. A series of implications of senior party members in espionage, however, raise questions whether the party is in line with the Constitution. Certain figures defected from the party and founded the New Progressive Party because they said they hated the party’s pro-North Korea policies.

The Democratic Labor Party is pursuing a merger with the New Progressive Party and the People’s Participation Party. The main opposition Democratic Party is also seeking to cooperate with the labor party to unite progressive forces. If they fail to break from false progressivism that shakes the country`s fundamentals, however, they cannot win public support no matter what causes they present for integration and cooperation. For its part, the Democratic Party should learn a clear lesson from the latest espionage incident given its internal conflict due to its chief Sohn Hak-kyu’s opposition to pro-North Korea groups.

Democratic forces refer to those striving to establish democracy as the Republic of Korea’s political system. What should not be tolerated is justifying pro-North Korea groups or those spying for the North by lumping them with democratic forces. The former wants to undermine the efforts of democratic forces seeking to solidify the basis of a democratic country. A clear line should be drawn between genuine progressive and democratic forces and pro-North Korea forces should the former want to take credit for their efforts.

After the 1970s, North Korea found it difficult to rely on a strategy to topple the South Korean government by joining forces with anti-government forces in the South. This was because of the tightened National Security Law and strengthened law enforcement agencies in the South and South Koreans` boosted sense of national security. Therefore, the North adopted another strategy of winning over high-ranking officials of the government and related agencies whom Pyongyang had resisted joining hands with. Seoul National University honorary professor Ahn Byeong-jik, who once served as a theorist for leftist forces, said most of the information on leftist groups released by prosecutors under the Park Chung-hee administration was "basically true." Based on Ahn`s testimony, the People`s Revolution Party was an anti-government group voluntarily founded in South Korea while the Unification Revolution Party was set up under a North Korean order. Lee Dong-bok, head of the North Korea Democracy Forum, said, “North Korea’s activities to form underground anti-state groups declined under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments as the latter played the role of an underground communist party from a broader point of view. With the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration, the North has resumed operations to set up underground anti-government groups.”

In May 1973, West German intelligence informed West German Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that Günter Guillaume, an adviser to Chancellor Willy Brandt, was working for Stasi, the East German secret police. Guillaume was arrested a year later and Brandt resigned. Stasi planted more than 30,000 spies in West Germany until German reunification. The secret police won over not only incumbent West German lawmakers, Cabinet members and intelligence officers but also aides to lawmakers and college students to prepare for the future.

In April 1973, North Korea`s then heir apparent Kim Jong Il told his spies, “In South Korea, those who pass higher civil service examinations can infiltrate the government and the Justice Ministry. You should prepare smart and promising South Korean college students for such examinations instead of causing them to join anti-government protests.” Such an order might be reaping results in every field of life in South Korea. Reunification will expose those who have had secret communication with the North, but the South cannot wait until then. Seoul must do its best to find those having secret communication with Pyongyang. South Korea must prevent such pro-North Korea forces from entering not only politics and government agencies but also major civil organizations.