More than a dozen groups have been formed in South Korea to welcome North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in advance of his anticipated visit to Seoul.
Kim Soo-Geun, who founded a youth group called “Welcome Committee for a Great Man”, is seeking to run a subway advertisement to welcome Kim, Reuters reported. “I like the communist party. You’ll like them soon as well,” he said.
Chung Min Lee, senior fellow of the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., tweeted:
“Pro-KJU welcoming groups are popping up like mushrooms in Seoul & KBS gives airtime to one of such group’s leader. No one in the Moon govt talks about NK’s Gulags & the most vicious dictatorship in the world. Just Peace is never made by one-way propaganda & ignoring brutality.”
Emergence of the pro-North Korea groups followed policy changes by liberal President Moon Jae-In who relaxed enforcement of South Korea’s 1948 National Security Act, which bars “praising, inciting or propagating the activities of an anti-government organization.”
The groups have sparked a backlash from many conservatives, security officials and North Korea defectors who are also alarmed at changes in public school curricula. Young South Koreans have no memory of the war and are being taught a worldview, critics say, that lines up with North Korea’s propaganda line on twentieth century history and downplays Pyongyang’s responsibility for the start of the Korean War.
North Korea’s military invaded the South on June 25 , 1950, and swiftly overran the country. U.S.-led UN forces, intervened and rapidly advanced into North Korea. As they neared the border with China, Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea. Fighting ended on July 27, 1953, with an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea. More than one million civilians and soldiers were killed in the war.
“Most South Koreans would support peace-building efforts with the North, but they’re not ready to praise Kim who has yet to show his credentials as a trustworthy leader,” said Cho Han-Bum, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. “To them, Kim is still a dictator.”
In downtown Seoul last month, some 40 young South Koreans showed their support for Kim’s visit by chanting “Kim Jong-Un! Kim Jong-Un! Kim Jong-Un is a great man!”
After the students staged their pro-Kim campaign, a conservative civic group filed a complaint to the prosecutor’s office against them for breaching the National Security Act. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office told Reuters that police are investigating the complaint.
“Peace is all well and good but those organizations extolling Kim Jong-Un are going way too far,” said Kim Jong-Hoon, a 27-year-old IT worker. “I don’t think that’s the way to lasting peace.”
When asked about a potential souring of public sentiment over Kim’s visit, Moon said there can’t be a “split in public opinion” and he believes all South Koreans would welcome Kim “with open arms.”
“Isn’t it every citizen’s wish if it helps realize denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and achieve peace between the South and the North?” Moon said.
On Dec. 3, a coalition of eight defector, human rights and lawyers’ organizations said they were opposed to further inter-Korean summits that fail to address human rights in the North.
UN investigators have reported the use of political prisons, starvation and executions in North Korea, saying security chiefs and possibly even Kim Jong-Un should be held accountable.
“The National Security Act is an anachronism from the Cold War era that really now should be repealed,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “But human rights must be on the agenda for all the various dialogues and discussions between North Korea and the outside world.”
Published under special arrangement with WorldTribune