13.12.2015 Author: Konstantin Asmolov

The Juche-following “Doctors’ Plot” in the Republic of Korea

North_Korean_soldiers_are_marchingAccording to Yonhap News Agency, December 1, 2015 nine oriental medicine doctors and three medical students in the Republic of Korea have been charged with treason and propaganda in favour of North Korea.

The suspects are not named, but as the Prosecutors informed, the case brought against them is on charges of breach of the “National Security Act”, which prohibits promoting North Korean ideologies or speaking positively about North Korea in public.

One of the Doctors, whose identity is also withheld, (only age is known – he’s 42)  is also charged with possessing a total of 527 printed materials that are classified as “benefiting the North”, including the memoir of Kim Il-sung, writings of Kim Il-sung and of Kim Jong-il  and other North Korean content, promoting the ideas of Juche.

According to the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, the “saboteur doctors”  are suspected of publishing a number of books between 2010 and 2013 with pro-North content such as the philosophy of Juche, the State  ideology of the DPRK.

As the investigators told the Yonhap News Agency, “the suspects were actually calling  for  an armed struggle, and preparing for a general uprising to bring about a  revolution.”

“It has been established that  by e-mailing and placing (prohibited) information on sites, the law-breakers were conducting North Korean ideological propaganda” in the form of an exchange of drafts of texts that they used to teach people the pro-North Korean ideology.

They are also suspected of praising the North Korean leaders: in  2012, they allegedly carried out a ceremony in honour of the birthday of Kim Il-sung, as well as planning a memorial ceremony for Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

What can be said about this?

Some of the wording of the charges is already surprising.

What does it mean “they were actually calling for”? There were no calls to action, but there were statements, that may be interpreted this way “if you close one eye and squint with the other”.

This immediately brings to mind the story of the Unified Progressive Party, which was dissolved by the authorities  after the so-called  Case of the Sabotage Plot,

though judging by the Programme, they were not Juche followers, but Eurocommunists; and the Party members were accused of a whole package of crimes.

As if they were discussing the seizure of warehouses with arms and police stations “to help North Korea,” planned a terrorist attack on some oil facility, developed “plans for the destruction of various strategic sites in the Republic of Korea” and attacks on key infrastructure facilities of the country and the conquest of power in the event of a new war.

However,  most of the charges were dropped  as early as the preliminary investigation stage and de-facto there was only the secret joint singing of revolutionary songs left.

The Superior Court “did not find sufficient evidence of the existence of Anti-State Conspiracy or Anti-State Organization”, but the UPP was still dissolved and the accused remained in prison  

And what exactly is understood as  pro-North Korean content: is it the direct promotion of the political system and the achievements of the DPRK or leftist ideas in general?

Here it is necessary to remind the audience that there is a tremendous breadth of wording in the NSA; so, let’s say, demands to improve the living conditions of workers and the quality of working conditions could quite easily turn into “activities, that  benefit the enemy.”

If you demand an enterprise to spend more on health and safety, then you harm its profits and thus weaken the economy of the country, and so, you work for North Korea, undermining the development of the South Korea.

Even in the 90s strikers and trade unionists were sent to prison under this Article.

Any praise of North Korea also gets banned, as it is forbidden even to attempt to doubt that to the North of the 38th Parallel it is hell on earth and that North Korean leadership  is the one to be blamed for everything a priori.

It was the  National Security Act that was used to silence those experts and journalists who dared to question the official version of the sinking of the corvette “Cheonan,” about which we recently ran an article.

Then the question arises: if the suspects were publishing books with a banned content for three year, why did the authorities only come for them just now?

Formally, all the evidence is available, and the NSA even provides for the immediate imprisonment for a lesser offence: let us recall  the sensational case, when a suspended sentence was given for the mere fact of downloading North Korean music with the proper ideological names.

That is why it is very likely that the detention of the “Juche-following Doctors” became possible only after the final approval of the interpretation of the laws by which any possession of North Korea or pro-North Korean literature is a crime and requires no additional evidence that the author shared the views or actively spread this literature online.

We have written about this, and that is why we simply remind you here: ” individual possession of Anti-State literature without lawful permission” is prohibited.

Even if you are just interested in North Korea without being an  official fighter with the Communist threat, it is an act of sedition, enough for a case to be opened.

It is no coincidence that one of the working versions explaining why the Case against Doctors was made public right now, is connected to the fact that the South Korean Intelligence Service that plunged into another scandal, set out to prove that its representatives ‘really know their onions’.

After all, in modern Republic of Korea information on the state of affairs in the North is well-known; so the number of leftists who support North Korea is more likely to be declining.

Just as among the Leftists in general, there are very tough debates about whether it is possible to consider the North a socialist country at all or whether its model has nothing in common with left-wing ideals and is closer, say, to National Socialism.

In this situation, the propagandist-followers of Juche can hardly expect any success, even if all that claimed by the investigators, proves to be true.

However,  let’s see, how sensational the South Korean “Doctors’ Plot” will be and what consequences it will have.

Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D, Chief Research Fellow of the Center for Korean Studies, Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.


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