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South Korea Bans Hanchongryon Student Movement

Two news items from the Arm The Spirit list (ats@locust.etext.org), Wednesday 11 June 1997 07:34:06 -0400 (EDT)

S.Korea Plans Arrests To Disband Student Body

Reuters, 10 June 1997

SEOUL (Reuter)—South Korea Tuesday formally banned a pro-Pyongyang student body that admitted responsibility for the torture killing of a suspected police spy last week. State prosecutors ordered the arrest of 99 leaders of the militant Hanchongryon, which the government maintains takes orders from Pyongyang.

Three major committees of the Hanchongryon had been outlawed since an earlier crackdown on the group last August following violent demonstrations at Seoul’s Yonsei University. Last year’s Yonsei protests and this year’s ceremonies to inaugurate new leaders clearly demonstrated Hanchongryon’s pro-North Korean, enemy-benefiting tendencies, a prosecution spokesman told reporters after a meeting of security officials.

The militant group has called for the resignation of President Kim Young-sam and the reunification of the Korean peninsula under a formula suggested by communist North Korea.

All leaders of Hanchongryon-affiliated student councils will be arrested unless they make public their withdrawal from the group by the end of July, he said.

Student councils from 116 universities across South Korea are currently affiliated with the Hanchongryon, whose members rampaged through Seoul last week. State prosecutors ordered the arrest of 99 students for leading violent protests this month after police blocked an inauguration ceremony at a Seoul university for new office holders of the Hanchongryon. So far, 214 students have been arrested in connection with the violence.

Police have arrested three Hanchongryon activists over the fatal beating of Lee Suk, a factory worker, whose badly bruised body was delivered to a hospital last Wednesday. A police autopsy showed Lee died as a direct result of the battering by students during a lengthy interrogation aimed at extracting a confession that he was a spy. His wrists were tied with rope during the beating.

Last August, more than 3,000 students were arrested after riot police stormed Yonsei University to end seven days of student occupation of lecture buildings. A total of 151 students were later jailed.

North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Tuesday denounced the government of President Kim for cracking down on the Hanchongryon. The intensified suppression of Hanchongryon is the last-ditch effort of the fascist dictator doomed to ruin, Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary monitored in Tokyo.

Hanchongryon Outlawed As ’Pro-North’ Group; Government Orders Thousands Of Its Members To Quit By End Of July Or Face Prison Terms

By Jun Kwan-woo, staff reporter, The Korea Herald, 11 June 1997

Prosecutors yesterday branded Hanchongryon, the National Federation of Student Councils, as pro-North Korean and warned its members to cease involvement or face criminal punishment. Setting the end of next month as the deadline for withdrawal, prosecutors said Security laws will be applied to Hanchongryon members beginning August 1.

The current National Security Law states stiff prison terms will be imposed on those accused of organizing or joining pro-enemy organizations.

The pro-enemy nature of Hanchongryon has become clear, said senior prosecutor Ko Yong-ju, responsible for public-security affairs at the Prosecutor General’s Office. Ko said Hanchongryon demands in the 12-day violent protest at Yonsei University in Seoul last August, echo those of North Korea, regarded as a South Korean foe. The umbrella student group demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea and an immediate unification of the two Korea’s under North Korea’s terms, he added. The legal action, however, will affect only the radicals who joined Hanchongryon’s central apparatus, not member student council participants, Ko said.

Security officials estimated the central group’s numbers at 2,000 to 3,000, mainly key figures in Korean student councils. The prosecution’s statements came in a joint meeting of officials from the police department, the Agency for National Security Planning, and other related ministries, aimed at dissolving the group. The prosecution said 99 key, country-wide Hanchongryon leaders, including chairman Kang Wi-won, were on the wanted list and overseas-travel bans had been imposed as well. The prosecution said that it will also close all offices of the student group at university campuses across Korea, in an effort to disband the organization.

Thousands of militant students belonging to Hanchongryon and attempting to inaugurate new leadership clashed with riot police in Seoul for four days last week. The clashes left two people, including a 23-year-old mechanic, dead and many others injured. According to police investigations, Lee Suk was beaten to death by a group of Hanchongryon students last Wednesday, who believed he was a police informant. After Lee’s death, Hanchongryon radicals halted demonstrations. Three students involved in the beating were subsequently arrested on murder charges. The beating death drew immediate outrage and led the ruling New Korea Party to insist on the disbandment of Hanchongryon.

Police said 1,249 students have been questioned and 214 arrested for hurling firebombs or wielding steel bars during the violent protests. Hanyang University’s campus, which was the sight of the violent Hanchongryon rally, has sued the group for 108.6 million won ($121,000) in damages. University authorities also turned over more than 30 of its students, who destroyed school equipment and facilities and also belonged to Hanchongryon, to the school disciplinary committee. Approximately 40 university student councils, a quarter of the 156 total, pulled out of Hanchongryon’s umbrella group recently. The deserting student councils are poised to set up another umbrella group replacing Hanchongryon, calling for moderate student activism, observers said.