Updated August. 12, 2014 05:56
An appellate court ruled that current affairs commentator Byun Hee-jaes use of the expression jongbuk (pro-North Korea) against Lee Jeong-hee, chairperson of the minor Unified Progressive Party, can be construed as defamation, and ordered him to pay 15 million (14,500 U.S. dollars) to Lee in compensation. The ruling is the same as lower court ruling. The court also ruled some media outlets that quoted Byuns remarks to make compensation to Lee. Byun said, I cannot accept the ruling, expressing his intention to seek further appeal to the Supreme Court.
The term "jongbuk" first started to be widely used when the equality faction used it to refer to the self-reliance faction, which formed the New Progressive Party when the Democratic Labor Party was split up in 2008. The New Progressive Party mentioned pro-North Korean ideology of the self-reliance faction as reason for its defection. Political activities of the National Liberation (NL) faction and the Proletarian Democracy (PD) used the terms such as self-reliance faction and equality faction by themselves. The core group of the NL faction is the juche (self-reliance) ideology faction. When the Unified Progressive Party was split in 2012, Lee Jeong-hee sided with Gyeonggi Provinces eastern alliance under the self-reliance ideology faction led by Lee Seok-ki. The court has judged that others` calling those factions "jongbuk," the name that they made themselves, is defamatory, which is truly irrational.
The court literally defined "pro-North Korean" as act in support of the North Korean Workers Party, and said it is illegal act to call someone pro-North Korea without specific evidence. But pro-North Korea has been established as term referring to people who follow absurd claims by the North Korean regime. Lee Jeong-hee said she was not sure if the Korean War was sparked due to invasion into the North by the South or vice versa, and denied that she would mention inheritance of power in the Kim Il Sung family in the North. Now the court has to suggest what alternative expression we should use instead of jongbuk to define the identity of such politicians.
Rep. Lee Seok-ki of the Unified Progressive Party was sentenced to serve nine years in prison for the charge of instigating rebellion at appellate court trial. The Constitutional Court is reviewing the unconstitutionality of the Unified Progressive Party as a political party, a case for which the government filed suit against the party. Given that the entire Unified Progressive Party is undergoing court trials as it was defined as being pro-North Korea, issuing a ruling ordering Byun to compensate Lee Jeong-hee for calling her "jongbuk" is incompatible with the prevailing public sentiment towards law. The Supreme Court should reconsider rulings by the lower court and appellate court.