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[Op-Ed] Fake Pro-Democracy Activists

Posted November. 07, 2009 08:40,   


The National Liberation Front Preparatory Committee was a communist underground group dubbed an “anti-government organization” by the Supreme Court. Formed in February 1976, the committee resorted to robbery and theft of business tycoons and senior government officials as well as stealing rifles from training barracks for civil defense troops. The group’s struggle ended in October 1979, when 84 members were arrested. Most of them were given heavy sentences, including the death penalty, for violation of the National Security Law and the Anti-Communism Law.

In 2006, the government body Democratization Rewards Committee recognized 42 of them for their contributions to pro-democracy movements, saying they resisted authoritarian rule under the “evil” National Security Law. The rewards committee also justified their robbery as a measure of last resort to continue their resistance amid a severe fund shortage. It also recognized as pro-democracy activists many members of other anti-state organizations, convicted spies, and university students who killed police officers in protests.

Launched in August 2000, the rewards committee has since finished reviewing 88 percent of 13,348 people known to have been sacrificed for national democratization since 1964. A total of 9,263 people have been recognized for their roles in pro-democracy movements, and compensation has been paid to 733 deceased or injured people. More than 58 billion won (49.7 million U.S. dollars) has been paid out in the form of livelihood support.

In September, a civic group reported to prosecutors eight people who served on the rewards committee’s review board, accusing them of abusing their power to compensate those involved in enemy-benefiting activities. Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam announced Thursday a probe into alleged payments to convict spies. The government should revise the law on rewarding pro-democracy activists to identify those who denied the Republic of Korea’s identity. People who helped jeopardize the country’s democracy should not be recognized as pro-democracy activists.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)