In a May 2005 memorial ceremony for South Korean patriotic martyrs for reunification on Mount Hoemun in Sunchang, North Jeolla Province, a group of middle school students chanted slogans urging national reunification by driving out foreign forces that pose the threat of war and the abolition of the National Security Law. Mount Hoemun was the main stronghold for armed guerillas that fought to communize South Korea in the Korean War. Leading the middle school students in 2005 was Kim Hyung-geun, a teacher at a middle school in Imsil County, North Jeolla Province, and chairman of the reunification committee of the province`s branch of the left-leaning Korean Teachers and Education Workers Unions branch. Parents were appalled by what the union taught the students about the pro-Pyongyang guerillas and its labeling of the guerrillas as patriotic martyrs.
In February this year, Jin Hyun-min, a judge at the Jeonju District Court, acquitted the teacher. Jin said Kim did no real damage to the legitimacy of liberal democracy and cited no evidence of enemy-benefitting activities. Many people criticized the young judges unusual ruling. After the trial, Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hun said a judges conscience should not be too far apart from society, though he did not specifically mention the case. The teacher, however, was also acquitted by a higher court Friday.
The Jeonju court ruled that Kims activities did not constitute sympathizing with anti-state organizations to the extent that they posed a clear and present danger to the basic order of liberal democracy. At the memorial ceremony, comments were made calling the anti-South Korean guerillas patriotic martyrs for reunification and inheriting their cause. Though students will not immediately be involved in activities threatening national security, the teacher who instilled guerilla ideology into them could be seen as explicitly expressing his will to sympathize with the activities of an anti-state organization, namely North Korea.
Huh Young, director of the Research Institute for Constitutional Law, questioned Kims acquittal, saying the teacher took immature students to the memorial event for the guerillas and that the students could potentially engage in activities against the basic order of liberal democracy of the Republic of Korea because of biased ideological education.
If a teacher who taught students the ideology of communist guerillas is not guilty, then how can teachers who praise North Korean leader Kim Jong Il be punished? The Supreme Court should stop the confusion and determine whether it will defend the identity of the Republic of Korea or guerilla education.
Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (firstname.lastname@example.org)