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South Korea

South Korea is a sovereign state in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighboured by China to the west, Japan to the east, and North Korea to the north. With an estimated population of 50 million, it covers a total area 98,480 square kilometres which includes partially forested mountain ranges separated by deep, narrow valleys. Its main exports are wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles and computers. Korea was one nation under the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties until the end of the Korean Empire in 1910, when Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule. Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers in 1945 and three years later the country split in two, beginning decades of conflict between North and South. The current president of The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is Park Geun-hye. She is the first woman to be elected as President in South Korea.


South Korea lawmaker arrested in alleged rebellion plot

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 10:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 September, 2013, 10:08am

South Korea’s spy agency arrested a leftist lawmaker accused of plotting a pro-North Korean rebellion in a case that has triggered a political and media firestorm in a nation where even praising the North can be considered a crime.

“It’s a fabrication by the National Intelligence Service,” Lee Seok-ki shouted on Thursday at a police station in Suwon, a city just south of Seoul, before being driven to a detention facility.

South Korean lawmakers voted Wednesday to lift Lee’s legislative immunity against arrest. It was the legislature’s first passage of such a motion over rebellion charges.

Lee, a first-time lawmaker from the small United Progressive Party, has long been hounded by claims he supports North Korea. He is accused by the spy agency of holding a secret meeting in May of about 130 party members and discussing strikes on crucial South Korean infrastructure targets should war break out between the Koreas. He allegedly believed that high tensions between the two countries this past spring could lead to war.

Lee has denied the allegations, accusing the spy service of staging a communist “witch hunt” to divert criticism of illegal online campaigning it allegedly conducted ahead of last December’s presidential election. Critics say Lee had little to back up the alleged plot, and note that past military-backed governments frequently used rebellion charges to suppress political critics.

“South Korea’s democracy is dying, and our country is becoming the republic of the National Intelligence Service,” Lee said after Wednesday’s vote, according to his party.

The spy agency can investigate Lee for up to 10 days before handing him over to prosecutors, according to Suwon District Court spokesman Lee Jung-won. He said the court issued an arrest warrant for the lawmaker because there were worries that he might destroy evidence or flee.

The firestorm over the allegations illustrates the deep, long-running rift between the right and left that dates back to the division of the Korean Peninsula into a US-backed, capitalistic South Korea and a Soviet-supported, socialist North Korea following the peninsula’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. In South Korea, praising North Korea can be punished by up to seven years in prison.

Conservatives in South Korea expressed fear over Lee’s case and pushed for the end of pro-North Korea groups.

“Lee Seok-ki’s rebellion plot is a shocking incident that clearly shows that North Korean followers are still spread throughout our society like poisonous mushrooms,” Choi Kyung Hwan, floor leader of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, told a party meeting. “We should root out ... underground revolutionary groups.”

Lee’s party chief, Lee Jung-hee, had told reporters Wednesday that the comments about attacking infrastructure were considered jokes during the meeting and participants didn’t take them seriously. She said some party members brought their children to the meetings, which showed that they were not a forum for rebellion.

Party officials had earlier said there was no such meeting and that many of the alleged comments were fabricated or distorted.

This past spring, North Korea threatened nuclear war against Seoul and Washington in anger over toughened UN sanctions over its February nuclear test. Tensions have gradually eased since then.



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