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Song Doo-yul Partially Acquitted

Posted July. 22, 2004 20:44,   


On July 21, Criminal Division 6 of the Seoul Court of Appeals (Presiding Judge Kim Yong-gyun) overturned the original ruling on Song Doo-yul, which sentenced him to seven years on the charge of violating the National Security Law, and commuted his sentence to just three years’ imprisonment with five years’ probation.

The court announced in relation to the new ruling, “The evidence submitted by the prosecution did not positively prove that the accused is an alternate member of North Korea’s Political Bureau.” Song, who had been living as an expatriate in Germany until his return and arrest last year, was duly released that afternoon from the Seoul Detention Center.

The court found Song guilty of two of the charges originally leveled at him, i.e. his five visits to North Korea between May 1992 and March 1994 to meet with then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung (National Security Law, article on infiltration and escape), and his attempt to deceive the courts of justice in 1998 by filing an unfounded lawsuit against Hwang Jang-yeop (Criminal Law, attempted fraud).

Explaining that “criminal responsibility must be proven absolutely, without room for reasonable doubt,” the court declared, “Although there is reason to suspect Song of being an alternate member of the Politburo of North Korea’s Workers Party, the lack of positive proof calls for a verdict of not guilty.”

The court added that “the prosecution’s deposition does not amount to a confession by the accused of his membership in the Politburo, Hwang’s testimony is overly abstract, and the remaining pieces of evidence do not fully demonstrate Song’s guilt.”

Of the charge of performing a leadership role in an anti-state organization through his writings, the court acquitted Song, saying, “The publication in question does display pro-North Korean tendencies, but it constitutes only a small percentage of the writings of the accused, and its content does not threaten the state’s security or political system.”

The court also overturned the verdict of guilty handed down during the first trial regarding Song’s dispatching of a letter of condolence on the death of General Secretary Kim Il-sung, as well as a letter of congratulation on National Defense Committee Chairman Kim Jong-il’s birthday. “These letters were mere formalities and do not pose clear threats to the basic order of democracy,” the court explained.

However, the court found Song guilty of the charge of visiting North Korea on five separate occasions since May 1992, as the visits were “intended to contribute to anti-South operations and the preservation of the North Korean regime.”

In addition, the court affirmed with respect to the lawsuit filed against Hwang that “the suit appears to have been a deliberate attempt to deceive the courts of justice, as the accused was a member of the North Korean Workers Party, maintained consistent communication with the North, and used the pseudonym of Kim Cheol-su.”

In regard to the new sentence, the court announced, “Song’s secret visits to North Korea constitute an anti-state activity that inflicted serious harmful effects on our national security, and even transgresses the limits of positive law,” but added, “The sentence of probation takes into consideration the fact that the reputation and authority of the accused as a scholar have already been damaged irreparably.”

“The National Security Law still retains regulatory force,” the court asserted, “but it poses considerable possibility of the infringement of human rights, and must only be applied, under restrictions, in cases where there are clear threats to the safe preservation of the state or to the basic order of freedom and democracy.”

The prosecution immediately announced its intention to file an appeal.

Ji-Seong Jeon verso@donga.com