A South Korean lawmaker was slapped with a fine by a South Korean court on Monday for accusing the left-leaning Lawyers for a Democratic Society (Minbyun) of being pro-DPRK, a charge frequently leveled against the controversial organization.
A judge demanded that Ha Tae-kyung of the center-right Bareun Party provide compensation of KRW five million (USD4,378) to Minbyun, arguing that the organization is not pro-North and that the charges had been defamatory.
“In South Korea, the term Jongbuk has the negative meaning of ‘following North Korea unquestioningly’ thus ‘denying constitutional ground order and the identity of the Republic of Korea (ROK),” the court ruled on Monday.
“(Lawmaker Ha Tae-kyung’s) statement was enough to give the impression that Minbyun leaned towards defending pro-North entities, deviating from its original purpose of providing legal support for the protection of human rights.”
The case against Ha’s claim was launched by Minbyun in early 2015, when he originally claimed that Minbyun was “defending North Korea.”
“Kim Ki-jong’s lawyer (Hwang Sang-hyun) is from Minbyun, and his mindset is Bukbyun (pro-North lawyer),” Ha wrote on his official Facebook on March 2015, the month that Kim attacked Mark Lippert, the former U.S. Ambassador to ROK, with a knife.
“There are many pro-North lawyers in Minbyun. I don’t need to list their names, it all comes up on the (internet) search result.”
Minbyun responded the following month, arguing that Kim’s lawyer Hwang Sang-hyun had never been part of Minbyun and announcing that it would sue Ha for defamation.
The justice department’s Monday ruling comes after last May’s first trial, when it had initially ruled against the plaintiff and rejected claims that Ha had defamed Minbyun. Monday’s ruling, however, overturned this decision.
“In case an individual or the organization – which is not Jongbuk – is falsely accused as being Jongbuk, then such an action would infringe the social appreciation of the person or the organization… thus this case has probable cause to be seen as the case of defamation,” the judge said on Monday.
Minbyun, formed in 1988 by a group of progressive lawyers, is an organization known for its long history of defending human rights and democracy in South Korea.
But it is often accused of being “pro-North” or “defenders of the North” for its tendency to willingly take politically controversial cases – often against the South Korean government.
Most notably, Minbyun defended North Korean defector Yoo Woo-seung against charges of espionage by South Korean intelligence in 2014, and lawyers linked to the group have spoken on behalf of the North Korean parents of 12 former restaurant employees who defected to South Korea in April 2016.
At the time of publication, Ha’s office had not yet responded to multiple NK News inquiries about whether he will take the case to a third trial.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ha Tae-kyung’s Facebook
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