March 6 (UPI) — A South Korean man in his 50s was sentenced to prison for praising North Korea and calling for the abolishment of Seoul’s anti-communist National Security Law on his personal blog.
The 53-year-old defendant with the surname Jeong was sentenced to one year in prison and may also serve a one-year suspended prison term, Yonhap reported.
The development may come as a surprise to some members of the South Korean public who may have expected an easing of restrictions against pro-Pyongyang statements, amid an unprecedented détente involving North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s top officials.
Jeong made the statements that ran afoul of South Korean law in 2011 and 2012.
The blog posts, 54 in total, were uploaded across a span of two years. They praised and promoted the “superiority” of the North Korean political system, according to Yonhap.
Jeong, who received his sentence at Gwangju District Court, said not only should the National Security Law be abolished, but U.S. troops should also be withdrawn from the peninsula.
The defendant said he agreed with North Korea’s official position on the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, in which 46 South Korean seamen were killed.
Pyongyang has previously said it was not involved in the attack, but Seoul has said there is evidence of direct North Korea involvement.
Kim Ho-seok, the South Korean judge in Gwangju District Court who presided over the case, said Jeong engaged in acts that pose a threat to South Korea’s liberal democracy.
“The defendant blindly supported and cooperated with North Korean allegations and unconditionally blamed the South Korean government, and in so doing tried to subvert our system of liberal democracy,” Kim said in his judgment.
But Kim added the verdict also took into consideration ways in which not all of Jeong’s statements posed a threat to the “fundamental democratic order.”
South Korea’s National Security Law was recently cited in statements from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party in its criticism of President Moon Jae-in’s engagement with North Korea.
Hong Jun-pyo, the leader of the conservatives, said last week the decision to send the South Korean delegation to Pyongyang ran afoul of the law, according to local news service Pressian.