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Unification Ministry Allowed Espionage Suspects to Visit North

Unification Ministry Allowed Espionage Suspects to Visit North

Posted October. 12, 2005 07:04,   


It was confirmed that in July, the Ministry of Unification permitted 10 people who had been subject to surveillance for engaging in partisan or espionage activities to visit North Korea.

When five people of them applied for permission to take the tour to Mt. Geumgang at the end of 2003, they were denied after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Ministry of Justice did a background check on them. However, when 200 figures of the National Association for the Fatherland Unification attempted to visit Mt. Geumgang this July, they applied for permission again, and succeeded in visiting the North.

This fact was revealed yesterday by a report of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) titled, “The case of infringing on equality rights regarding the tour to Mt. Geumgang,” disclosed by Grand National Party lawmaker Kim Jae-gyeong.

When the Ministry of Unification reviewed whether to approve their visit to the North, it permitted them to visit the North despite opposition from the NIS.

In response, the Ministry of Unification said in a press conference yesterday, “We approved their visit to the North in terms of a humanitarian perspective because there were no special reasons to limit ordinary sightseeing.”

According to the report of the NHRCK, five people, including a person (80) identified as Kim, applied for the overland journey to Mt. Geumgang for grandfathers and mothers in November 2003, but failed to visit Mt. Geumgang due to the results of confirmation of their past background. They were once engaged in activities such as espionage, partisan activity, or had previous convictions for infiltrating a military unit and killing five South Korean soldiers.

In response, they lodged a petition to the NHRCK, arguing that the fact that the Ministry of Unification barred them from visiting the North five hours before their scheduled departure time and did not give them any opportunity to explain their activities was an infringement of their human rights. The NHRCK has failed to finalize this case for the past 22 months.

Meanwhile, regarding a report by Dong-A Ilbo that the Ministry of Unification sent 520 applicants to see Arirang, a performance in Pyongyang, to the North without any confirmation by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Unification said, “We do not consult with the Ministry of Justice about the tour to Mt. Geumgang to confirm applicants’ past careers. Because the final approval is in the hands of Unification Minister, it is not legally problematic.”

However, the Unification Ministry did not permit people, including Kim, to pay a visit to the North at the end of 2003 after receiving reports confirming their past activities from the Minister of Justice, the NIS and the Korea National Police Agency, citing that their abrupt actions, such as refusals to come back to South Korea after visiting the North, could damage the national interest.

Jung-Eun Lee Myoung-Gun Lee lightee@donga.com gun43@donga.com