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Union Reps Visit N. Korean War Shrine

Posted August. 04, 2006 03:20,   


It has been revealed that 50 members of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions (KFTU) paid a visit to a “Revolution Patriots’ Cemetery” which North Korea regards as ‘revolution holy site’ during the tour to the communist country to participate in the May 1 events held in Pyongyang in May.

Even though government officials on tour with the KFTU opposed their visit on the grounds of a violation of the national security law, the unionists pushed for the visit.

The government, even knowing the illegitimate nature of the visit, shared part of the tour expenses.

It was the first time for South Korean personnel to visit the North Korean national cemetery. The government prohibits visits to the cemetery where Kim Jung Sook (who died in 1945), the birth mother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Chek, former deputy prime minister, and O Jin Woo, former minister of North Korea people’s army, are enshrined.

Yoon Young-gyu, Vice President of the KFTU, and Yoo Jae-sub, Vice President of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), were at the helm of the group which visited Pyongyang from April 30 to May 3 with some 150 members.

On May 1, some officials of the KFTU called for a visit to the cemetery in Mt. Daesong district, Pyongyang, and pushed ahead with the plan, ignoring the opposition from the government officials who argued the visit is against the law. The FKTU did not join the visit to the cemetery.

In a speech delivered by a senior official of the KFTU during the visit to the North, he made anti-American remarks, saying, “The U.S. is blatant about preemptive attacks against the North.”

The National Intelligence Service has launched an investigation since the group returned to the South and is now reviewing the legal matters to see whether they can be punished for “praising and benefiting” North Korea under Clause 1 Article 7 of the national security law.

The Ministry of Unification imposed a one-month ban from visiting the North as of July 5 on 14 senior officials of the federations, 10 of the KFTU and four of the FKTU, for engaging in other activities aside from visiting North Korea.

“The KFTU took the lead in visiting the cemetery and the FKTU is responsible for failing to stop them,” said an official of the Ministry.

Yet the Ministry paid 69.39 million won to the two umbrella federations on July 19 for travel and event expenses. It said the amount was reduced from the planned 140.9 million won.

Some point out that the ministry is trying to brush off the incident by covering part of expenses only after giving a slap on the wrist as seen it imposed one-month North Korean travel ban two months after the incident.

The KFTU refused the interview with Dong-A Ilbo and the FKTU said “We cannot accept that we should take responsibility since we tried to dissuade the KFTU members from going the cemetery.”

taewon_ha@donga.com ditto@donga.com