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Appellate court clears Yoo Woo-seong of spying charges

Posted April. 26, 2014 05:39,   


Yoo Woo-seong, the suspect who faces spying charge as former civil servant of the Seoul metropolitan government, was also found not guilty at an appellate court trial. In connection with the case wherein Yoo was found not guilty in the lower court trial, President Park Geun-hye and National Intelligence Service chief Nam Jae-joon had to make public apologies because the NIS was found to have manipulated the evidence of immigration records in China to prove his spying charge during the appellate court trial. Undoubtedly, the NIS’ manipulation of evidence has negatively affected prosecutors’ bid in the appellate court trial. However, the court found Yoo, a Chinese national, guilty for receiving settlement subsidies meant for North Korean defectors in South Korea, and sentenced him one year in prison with a two-year stay of execution, the same penalty as that handed in the lower court, plus fines of 25.65 million won (24,700 U.S. dollars).

Chances are not high that facts that were admitted in the lower court and appellate court trials will be reversed, but it may be worthwhile for prosecutors to raise issue over whether testimonies for conservation of evidence should be admitted as evidence or not. The Seoul High Court denied admissibility as evidence of testimonies by Yoo’s younger sister that admitted his acts of spying in the process of conservation of evidence, which was led by judges. Usually, the court admits admissibility as evidence testimonies for conservation of evidence, but in this case, it cited as the reason for its rejection procedural defect on the ground that the process of conservation of evidence was done behind closed doors. As for spying cases, the court heavily depends on testimonies for conservation of evidence made by a witness or suspect because it is difficult to collect evidence. Hence, watchers must pay attention to the Supreme Court’s ruling on how it views testimonies for conservation of evidence in terms of admissibility as evidence.

In the final hearing, prosecutors claimed that “Yoo committed acts that are seriously detrimental to the nation’s security, which jeopardize the lives of North Korean defectors through his spying activities in the South,” saying the court should handed him a prison term before deporting him. In the course of dispute over evidence, South Korea’s intelligence network in China collapsed, while the anti-communist investigation bureau at the NIS, which is tasked with catching spies, is facing the crisis of survival or demise, a situation that is lamentable at best.

As North Korean defectors soar in number in recent years, and the routes of entrance into South have diversified, it has become difficult for the South Korean law enforcement authorities to cope with situation through conventional investigation methods or legal principles. As for investigation into spies disguised as North Korean defectors, prosecutors can only depend on testimonies by the people concerned, because evidence is in China and North Korea. In some cases, investigations are blocked by lawyers, including members of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society. It is time that South Korea agonized over various measures to prevent anti-spying investigations from being incapacitated.

The criminal judicial system has been made mockery due to the NIS’ investigation team’s manipulation of evidence. In order to prevent such a case from recurring, the NIS should comprehensively inspect practice and problems in anti-communist investigations and be reborn.