South Korean President Park Geun-hye yesterday said that an anti-North Korea law was needed because the two nations remained technically at war, after a Korean-American was deported to the US under the law for making positive comments about North Korea.
However, Park also said that she remained open to a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to ease tensions.
Shin Eun-mi, a South Korea-born US citizen who came to South Korea last year as a tourist, has spoken positively of life in North Korea in speeches around the nation, as well as in online posts. She also blamed South Korea’s news media for encouraging alienation between the people of the two sides.
“Not all countries face exactly the same circumstances,” Park said at a news conference, when asked about South Korea’s National Security Law, the anti-North statute which Shin is accused of violating. “We need the very minimum of law to ensure security in this country, as we remain in a standoff with the North, and the law is enforced according to that.”
Earlier yesterday, a South Korean Ministry of Justice official confirmed that Shin had been deported for violating the National Security Law, as well as an immigration control law.
“She was taken to the [airport] and was expelled, and is barred from re-entry for the next five years,” the ministry official said, asking not to be named.
The National Security Law, enacted after the two Koreas were split at the end of World War II, but before the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, prohibits South Koreans from publicly praising the North Korean regime.
The latter war was ended in a truce and not with a peace treaty.
The law is considered obsolete mostly by liberal critics, who say it is used by conservative Seoul governments to stifle political opposition and suppress freedom of speech.
Shin boarded a plane on Saturday. Yonhap news agency said that she landed in Los Angeles on Saturday local time, adding that a scuffle broke out at her destination between supporters welcoming her back and opponents.
Appearing before reporters on Saturday after questioning by immigration authorities, Shin said that she was being deported, “but my love for my homeland cannot be expelled.”
“I will be wishing peace and unification for my homeland from afar with the love I have for my compatriots,” she said.
Also yesterday, Park said she had yet to see The Interview — a Hollywood comedy about a CIA plot to assassinate Kim.
The Seth Rogen film — blamed for triggering a hacking attack on Sony Pictures that US authorities have linked to North Korea — is not be released in South Korean cinemas, but is available online.
“I have not seen it yet, but I have learned the gist of the story from the media,” Park told a New Year’s news conference.
The US insists that North Korea, which had fiercely condemned the movie before its release, was behind a devastating suspected cyberattack on the studio behind the film, Sony Pictures, and slapped additional sanctions on Pyongyang in response.
Park described the US countermeasure as “very appropriate,” adding that North Korea had only itself to blame.
“North Korea provided the reason for the United States to take that action,” she said.
The Interview has become Sony’s best-grossing online film ever, making more than US$31 million on the Internet and other small-screen formats.
According to the Seoul-based, defector-run Web site Daily NK, North Korea has tightened surveillance on smugglers to ensure that no DVD or flash-drive copies of the film make it inside the nation.
“No one knows what will happen if you are caught watching a movie about the assassination of [Kim], but you may be executed as an example,” the Web site cited one source inside North Korea as saying.
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