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Citing Freedom of Speech, Uri Party Head Finds Punishment of Pro-North Professor Distasteful

Citing Freedom of Speech, Uri Party Head Finds Punishment of Pro-North Professor Distasteful

Posted October. 11, 2005 03:02,   


Chairman of the ruling Uri Party Moon Hee-sang said he was in the unfavorable position of punishing Kang Jeong-ku, a sociology professor at Dongguk University, who is being questioned by police for saying, “The Korean War (1950-1953) was an attempt to unify the Korean peninsula.”

Moon made the remark yesterday at a Journalist Club forum at the 63 Building in Yeouido, Seoul.

“In fact, I have an entirely different point of view from Kang’s assertion,” Moon said. “However, I think, compared to North Korea, permitting individual freedom of thought and expression is a particular strong point of South Korea. If we punish him only because he has a different opinion, we would mar this strong point.”

In this regard, Shin Ki-nam, a lawmaker of the ruling Uri Party and parliamentary chairman of the Information Committee, asserted, “I strongly oppose the punishment against Kang because he has the right to freedom of thought and expression,” on his homepage.

Such advocacy from key members of the ruling party seems to be igniting further conflicts because it is coming out at a time when the police are about to indict Kang after affirming Kang’s pro-North Korea disposition.

Moon was also asked at the forum, “Don’t you think that the current government and the ruling party’s prolonged tension with the press is an ineffective war of attrition?” Moon answered that, “I think this is a good point. Yes, I agree that the tension is unnecessarily getting sharp now,” adding, “However, we have to admit that the press’s freedom to criticize had not bloomed like this in over 5,000 years of Korean history.” Moon ended by saying, “The press must reflect on its irresponsible activities that have hampered the nation’s interests.”

In regard to President Roh Moo-hyun’s controversial proposal to align with the major opposition party, Moon also said that, “I think this issue is already over and it is not desirable to continue talking about this issue.” Thus, Moon publicly declared the end of debate on the alliance issue.

Cheong Wa Dae Spokesman Kim Man-soo, however, said, “In fact, Moon’s remarks reflect the lowered chances of realizing an alliance with the opposition party, but Moon didn’t have any talks with Cheong Wa Dae about this in advance.”

Moon added, “We won’t mention the alliance any more, so the president doesn’t have to shorten his tenure.”

Responding to a question that asked whether the Uri Party has a plan to invite Goh Kun, who is running at the top in a survey of who the most popular candidate in the next presidential election would be, Moon said that, “We have many promising candidates who are preparing themselves for the election. If Goh is willing to compete with them, there is no reason to give him a cold shoulder.” However, Moon also said, “I basically object to the introduction of new face as the party’s nominee for the next presidential election.”

In addition, regarding controversial debate on the revision of Act on the Structural Improvement of the Financial Industry, Moon said that, “I agree with giving a five-year grace period to the Samsung Group on selling more than the legal limit of five percent of their stock.”

Jung-Hun Kim Kang-Myoung Chang jnghn@donga.com tesomiom@donga.com