Four pro-Pyongyang activists to stand trial over security law breach

SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- Four members of a pro-Pyongyang group in South Korea have been indicted on charges of carrying out propaganda activities to praise North Korea, in breach of Seoul's draconian security law, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said it has detained the four senior officials of the South Headquarters of the Pan-National Alliance for Korea's Reunification for allegedly violating the National Security Law that bans praising, encouraging or propagandizing North Korea.

The four are accused of posting materials on the group's website to propagandize the communist regime's ideology, prosecutors said, adding that the four also allegedly possessed books praising late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

The indictment comes after the prosecution office cooperated with police and the national intelligence agency to clamp down on the pro-North Korean activist group that has been active for over 18 years.

The South Headquarters of the Pan-national Alliance for Korea's Reunification, founded in 1993, was ruled as an "organization that threatens national security" by the nation's top court in 1995.

"Prosecuting core members would incapacitate the activities of Pan-national Alliance for Korea's Reunification," a prosecution official said.

The group has often been at the center of controversies due to high-profile cases such as making an unauthorized trip to the communist country.

Earlier this year, Ro Su-hui, the vice chairman of the group, was put behind bars for illegally entering North Korea to attend a memorial service to mark the 100th day since the death of long-time North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The draconian law has long been politically controversial. Enacted in 1948 to fight communism, the law bans any "anti-state" activities that attempt to praise, encourage or propagandize North Korean political ideals.

Supporters of the law claim it is necessary to maintain public order amid North Korea's efforts to spread communist ideology in the South, while detractors say the law is outdated and often used as a tool to oppress dissidents and limit the freedom of expression.

South and North Korea remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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