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Praising a Dictatorship

Posted August. 21, 2010 14:23,   


The Rev. Han Sang-ryol, a standing adviser to the (South) Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement, crossed the inter-Korean border to return home Friday after making an illegal visit to North Korea. Some 200 North Korean officials gave him a hero’s send-off. Staying in the North for more than two months without permission, he engaged in anti-Seoul and pro-Pyongyang activities in denouncing his own government while praising the North’s totalitarian system.

He chose to return to the South though he could have stayed in the North if the Stalinist country is as great as he says it is. Or he could have stayed there to fight for religious freedom absent in the North. Is it because he has more things to do in the South to undermine religious freedom?

While in the North, Han visited each and every propaganda site there, including the home where the country’s late leader Kim Il Sung was born, and praised the North Korean system. At a public rally in Pyongyang June 23, he said the Lee Myung-bak administration in Seoul is “bringing war to the Korean Peninsula.” In contrast, he flattered North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, saying the South Korean people are “deeply impressed with his modest attitude of respecting the elderly, his sense of humor, wisdom, determination and bright smiles.” How do Christians in the South feel about Han`s status as a Protestant pastor?

Han also called the sinking of the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in late March a “culmination of Lee Myung-bak-style lies.” In addition, he described the Korean War, which was provoked by Kim Il Sung, as a “patriotic war for reunification.” Had the “patriotic war” succeeded, South Koreans would be living under the same dire conditions as North Koreans.

The pastor advocated Kim Jong Il’s military-first policy as “peace politics” and called North Korean spies and guerillas “patriotic martyrs for reunification.” While taking leisure trips to the North’s resort areas, including Mount Kumgang, he never bothered to look more closely at North Koreans, who are suffering from hunger and political oppression, to share their pain. Is this true Christian love?

Han’s activities negate the Republic of Korea, going beyond violating the National Security Law, which bans praising the enemy and propagandizing anti-state organizations and their members. While Han was in the North, South Korean prosecutors indicted Han Choong-mok, co-chairman of the progressive group, on charges of violating the law by staging anti-U.S. struggles, including organizing rallies for the removal of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s statue, under Pyongyang’s order. Law enforcement authorities should also investigate if Pyongyang arranged the pastor’s visit to the North in an attempt to escape from the crisis caused by the sinking of the South Korean warship.

Certain pro-North groups in the South Friday held rallies welcoming Han’s return and urged authorities not to arrest him. Seoul must draw the line on tolerance of illegal activities by those who attempt to destroy the liberal democracy the South shares with other advanced economies in the world.