Upon his arrival at
The South Korean media pronounced him the “biggest ever catch” under the web of this anti-communist law. Yet at the same time his fate was seen as inseparable from that of this legislation, so that the moment when he is eventually found not guilty is likely also to be the moment when the life of the National Security Law comes to an end. With his release, the legal foundation of anti-communism that has been the pillar of the South Korean state since its foundation has been shaken.
When he was released by the appeal court, the outcome was given top billing in the next day’s newspapers in
Born in Tokyo in 1944, of Korean parents, Song attended school in Korea (Kwangju), graduated from Seoul National University’s Department of Philosophy and, in 1967, moved to Germany for graduate studies, first at Heidelberg University and then at Frankfurt University under Jurgen Habermas. He gained his doctorate in 1972 for his thesis on “The Understanding of Asia in Hegel, Marx, and Weber” and taught first at the Free University of Berlin and from 1982 at
From 1980, Song was closely involved in the movement of overseas Koreans protesting against the massacre of students and citizens at
My friendship with Song dates to the protest movement in
As a Japanese who was politically relatively safe in the context of West Berlin at the time, I found myself performing a provisional role as a kind of spokesman, trying to explain things to a New York Times reporter who found it difficult to understand the call by South Koreans for withdrawal of US troops that was beginning to be uttered publicly, and telling German Red Army Faction members who were rushing to join in to keep away, for they would only be a nuisance, drawing the attention of the German security police.
On the last day of the hunger strike, there was a demonstration headed by the hunger strikers, down the Kurfurstendam main street. Many Germans, and some 1,500 Koreans, took part. It was a historic moment, the largest-ever demonstration by Koreans in
Subsequently, many who had participated in the protests finished their studies and, as democratization proceeded in
Under the Kim Dae Jung administration, a Korea Democracy Foundation was established by law in 2001. Headed by Park Hyon Gyu, the 82 year old pastor and elder of the democratization movement, as director, it was to gather and manage materials on the democracy movement, promote democratic education, and conduct commemorative events. In October 2002, 67 women and men who had contributed to the democratization struggle from outside
The following year, September 2003, the Korea Democracy Foundation invited thirty-three more people from overseas. Among them was Kwak Ton Gi, representing the [Tokyo-based] Korean League for Democracy and Unification, an organization that had hitherto been proscribed from entry to the country because it was “anti-state.” These invitees were able to enter the country unconditionally. It is well-known that the predecessor of the Korean League for Democracy and Unification, Hanmintong (headquartered in
However, a problem arose over three others, in
On 22 September, Song Du Yol, with his wife and two children, holding German passports, returned to
From the day after his arrival, harsh interrogation was conducted by ten officials taking thirty minute spells over ten to fifteen hours each day, with the exception of Sunday, an exhausted Song being returned to his hotel at the end of each session. Despite the official promise, and despite repeated protests from the German embassy, his lawyer was not allowed to be present. He was forbidden to leave the country, and on 1 October the Public Security Institute sent to the prosecutors a 2,035 page dossier recommending trial and punishment.
At a press conference on 2 October, Song made several admissions, each of which became a major matter of contention at his subsequent trial. He said:
“It is true that when I entered
Song’s admission of membership of the (North) Korean Workers’ Party and of receipt of money from the North shocked South Korean society. The incident became a major public and political issue and Song’s detention the subject of hostile exchanges on the floor of the National Assembly. On the day following the press conference, President Roh Moo Hyun made a speech in which he expressed his concern as follows:
“People such as Professor Song were born at a time of national division, so this is not something to get excited over and [for conservatives] to celebrate. Whether Korean society can address this problem in a mature way will be a test of the level it has reached. … It is more complicated than at first it seemed, since to my dismay matters disadvantageous to Professor Song have emerged. It pains me greatly that Song might now be exploited for ideological purposes.”
Investigation by the prosecutors began on 3 October, with Song and his family being placed under police protection “because of threats of harm.” On 22 October he was arrested and transferred to a detention centre and on 15 November he was indicted.
Charges against him of violation of the National Security Law and the Criminal Code arose over four matters.
1. Membership and a leading role in an anti-state organization. Among the items listed in the indictment were membership of the North Korean Workers Party, meetings with Kim Il Sung, membership in the Politburo, forming and playing a leading role in an anti-state organization together with Yun Yi Sang, Kim Gil Sun and overseas organizations; glorifying and praising the North’s Juche ideology (under ten counts of publishing activities), abetting O Gil Ram to go to North Korea; organizing a scientific gathering in Pyongyang; and accepting money from the North.
2. Fleeing to a region under control of an anti-state organization (Article 6); going repeatedly to North Korea, participating in ceremonies including Kim Il Sung’s funeral, and participating in conferences and lecture meetings with North Korean students and scholars.
3. Aiding an anti-state organization (Article 9); entering
4. Attempted fraud (in contravention of the Criminal Code). In a 1998 publication, former Korean Workers Party secretary Hwang Jang Yop, who defected to
In some respects the Song Affair was like something out of a novel. Park Chon Sam, head of the Second Section (responsible for internal affairs) of the Public Security Institute was a former colleague and acquaintance of Song’s, one of twenty or so students in the same philosophy department class at
From Song’s return in late September, through his arrest and imprisonment a month later and his indictment a month after that, public opinion boiled up in two different directions. As the three major daily newspapers covered it extensively, exploiting the incident to press for impeachment of the president, they started to look like handouts from the opposition political parties. Public broadcasters such as KBS television found it difficult to show outright support for the president, but on the internet, representing especially young people, opinion favorable to Song and to president Roh was overwhelming. Yi Jong Su, chairman of the board at KBS, commented: “For the newspapers, Song is a criminal, for the television stations, a suspicious character, for the internet generation, a hero.”
The incident provided timely material for the battle between the Uri Party, the minority government party that faced the presidential impeachment resolution, and the majority opposition Hannara (Grand National) Party. Hannara succeeded in getting the president impeached over charges of receiving illicit campaign funds and violation of the electoral laws pertaining to the presidential office by campaigning for Uri (Our Open) Party, thus driving President Roh up against the wall, but then suffered a crushing defeat in the April National Assembly elections. The major factor in bringing this about was the overwhelming power of the youth vote and the role of the internet. To put it in a nutshell, old and new
In the appeal court proceedings that began on 19 May, the crucial issues became that of whether Song’s definition of himself as a “Border Rider” was a cover for “being a party member of
In his final statement on 30 June, Song made the following points:
“From the way that this court has been debating matters appropriate to academic debate, the distorted reality of
“The ability of a society to reform itself has to be doubted if it makes illegal the works of someone like me who searches for a way to overcome the problem of the last remaining divided state after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
“Caught in the middle of the deep-rooted contest between the modernizations of
“The meaning of ‘enlightenment‘ may be seen in the sense of the words of the Analects of Confucius, that ‘if as a result of making an effort, the problems of one corner of a square are solved, the other three corners will be solved too.’ I would like this trial to constitute a starting point towards resolution of the three problems of inner (South-South) discord within South Korean society, South-North discord, and North East Asian discord. I am confident that my crime and the ‘National Security Law’ are both going to pass together into history.”
On 21 July, Chief Justice Kim Yon Gyun of the Supreme Court, contrary to most expectation, handed down a decision that amounted to a big step in the direction of this “starting point towards enlightenment.” He said,
“Proof of criminality must be perfect, beyond reasonable doubt. … On the question of whether the accused is an alternate member of the Politburo I hold that, although there may be doubt about it, there is no strict proof and therefore he is not guilty.”
Song’s guilt was confirmed on just two counts: five visits to
Song was sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended for five years, and his immediate release was ordered. The Public Security Institute and the prosecutors were reported to be “perplexed, disappointed, stupefied” at this unexpected judgment, and consequently took no steps to block Song’s departure from the country.
Sitting in the parliamentary members reception house overlooking the Han River, I talked with Uri party member Kang Chang Il, professor of Baejae University and head of the “April 3rd Research Institute” on the 1948 Cheju Island Massacres.
“Darkness has prevailed for too long in South Korean society and democratization is still ahead of us. Those with vested interests from the time of the dictatorship are still the mainstream. The three major daily papers are instruments of the establishment. Feelings of resentment against Song are strong among the people. The judgment was proper, and thanks to this trial ordinary people understood for the first time how people overseas viewed Korean society under the dictatorship. The understanding that Song was not a spy but a scholar and his word ‘Border Rider’ came to be accepted. The National Security Law has long been used as a weapon of the pro-Japanese, anti-unification, anti-democratic elements. Around ten years ago there was an attempt to get rid of it, but it failed. It is already just a law in name, and even if abolished any gaps can be met by revisions to the criminal code. The conservative elements, shamefully, cling to it just in name. It seems likely now that the Uri Party will respond to national sentiment and put forward a compromise proposal not to abolish but to revise it.”
In September, on the fifth day of the parliamentary session, in a MBC television interview President Roh Moo Hyun made clear for the first time his intent to abolish the law:
“The National Security Law should be abolished and provisions necessary for national defense addressed by revisions to clauses of the criminal code. … This is part of the shameful history of South Korean society and it is a legacy of the dictatorship. … Should we not abolish this old relic, wrap it up and send it to a museum?”
On 7 September, Tong-A Daily said “
“The president is leading the process of pushing for dismantling the defences of the
A group of more than one thousand conservative elders from political, legal and educational fields, including former prime ministers and speakers of the parliament under the dictatorship, were mobilized and issued a “Statement of Support for the National Security Law and Concern over the National Identity Crisis” and pressure began to be applied from the streets. The ruling Uri party, in line with the president’s statement of intent, adopted repeal of the National Security Law as party policy and began working towards securing parliamentary approval. By 15 September a majority, 172 of the total 300 members of the national Assembly, had signed indicating their agreement to the repeal.
After visits to his native
In the wake of Song’s departure, a full-scale debate erupted on the question of revision or repeal of the National Security Law. In September the ruling Uri Party and two smaller parties jointly presented a bill for repeal. The furor deepened in October when it was revealed that the country’s third largest political party, the Democratic Labor Party, was under investigation for possible breaches as a result of opposition to the war in Iraq, i.e. that the law continued to be used, not for “national security,” but for suppression of legitimate political opposition (Hangyoreh, 18 October 2004). By years’ end, the confrontation in the parliament had not been resolved, leaders of both government and opposition parties resigned to accept responsibility, and the country was bitterly divided. From mid-December a group of one thousand people launched a hunger strike to demand repeal, and within weeks some of them were being hospitalized for exhaustion, cold and hunger. Song Du Yol’s return home precipitated a crisis that is yet to be resolved.
 His “immanent” approach, in Song’s own words, meant: “I try to understand them first by putting myself in their position, not from the head but from reality. [Even now] we know so little about
Kajimura Tai’ichiro is an independent Japanese journalist, human rights activist, and historian, long resident in