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Marking the end of pro-North Korea groups

Posted September. 11, 2013 06:18,   


The failure of the 1980 pro-democracy movement triggered a strong controversy among political activists. In the aftermath of the movement, the mainstream of political activists shifted from the recovery of democracy oppressed under the Revitalizing Reforms system and the Chun Doo-hwan administration to a socialist revolution through violent overthrow of the present system. Part of the mainstream spontaneously adopted North Korea’s revolutionary ideology in the mid 1980s insisting that any revolutions alienated from North Korea, a socialist regime founded by Koreans, would be hypocritical.

The fall of Eastern Europe and Soviet Union, which began in 1989, came as a great shock to many political activists who pursued Marxist-Leninist revolution, causing many of them to stop participating in socialist activities and live their own lives by getting a job or going abroad to study. The NL Juche Idea group, however, remained firm. They said, “What happened in Moscow should not affect Pyongyang.”

In 1989, North Korea dispatched Yoon Taek Rim, a deputy director of North Korea’s Society and Culture Ministry, to South Korea to meet Kim Yeong-hwan, the founder of a Juche Idea group in South Korea. In March 1992, the National Democratic Revolutionary Party was established in South Korea. Other than this party, many groups were founded or supported by activists following the Juche Idea who were active in college students’ demonstration in the 1980s, including the Central Region Party which was detected in 1992, the National Committee of Salvation which was unveiled in 1994, the One Accord Committee disclosed in 2006 and the Wangjaesan in 2011. All these groups were founded in South Korea but later connected with North Korea for the purpose of the revolution of the South Korea.

South Korean underground parties following North Korea have a long history. South Korean police apprehended the Unified Revolutionary Party in 1968, and the National Liberation Front in 1979. The former was the first underground party established in South Korea since the ceasefire by an order of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. The party changed its title into “Korea National Democracy Front” and “Anti-Imperialism National Front” while carrying out projects in South Korea. Meanwhile, the National Liberation Front of South Korea, which was founded by Lee Jae-mun who was put on the wanted list regarding the People’s Revolutionary Party, even sent its members to Japan to contact North Koreans and establish relations with the Stalinist regime.

Though the root is deep, underground revolutionary groups have experienced significant changes as time goes by. Some of those who were active in the 60s and 70s as underground activists still participate in pro-North Korea groups, but they are experiencing physical limits due to their advanced ages. As South Korea achieved democracy of its own and people came to know the reality of North Korea, most of South Korean followers of North Korean Juche Idea stopped their association with activist groups. From late 80s through the mid 90s, the number of the followers reached its peak with more than 100,000.

Despite all the changes, South Korean followers of North Korea still existed. Lee Seok-ki is one of the key members of the Juche Idea group in the 1980s and was one of the founders of the Anti-Imperialism Youth Union, the predecessor of the Democracy Revolution Party. One characteristic of an underground group, which is composed of smaller groups, is that it can hardly be restored once it was unveiled. However, after being released from prison, Lee Seok-ki could restore an underground organization called RO centered in Gyeonggi Province, expanded its power, secured a key position at the United Progressive Party and made his way into the National Assembly. This may be viewed as a remarkable achievement.

The Lee Seok-ki incident would not put an end to pro-North Korea groups. Similar incidents in various forms are expected to happen down the road. Under the circumstances, however, it is unlikely that another group as powerful as the Lee Seok-ki group, which led a political party and made its way into the National Assembly, will appear again. From this point of view, the Lee Seok-ki incident is likely to mark the beginning of the end of pro-North Korea revolutionary groups in the history of Korea.