The rebellion charge faced by leftist lawmaker Rep. Lee Seok-ki has rocked not only the political arena but the entire country, which is still ideologically divided in the midst of constant threats from North Korea.
The best-known insurrection case was in 1980, albeit in vastly different circumstances. Then opposition leader Kim Dae-jung, who later became president, was sentenced to death by the military junta in its move to oppress the democratic movement. He was declared innocent in 2004.
Another well-known case was the Inhyukdang case in 1975, when eight activists were sentenced to death for creating an underground organization and seeking to overthrow the government. The execution was carried out the next day. After more than three decades, the court overturned the ruling and cleared their names.
In 1997, former Presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were sentenced to life imprisonment and 17-year imprisonment, respectively, along with hefty fines on a vast list of charges that included leading or taking part in a revolt, by using military suppression to seize power.
The National Intelligence Service and the prosecutors are currently moving to arrest Lee on charges of conspiring to start an insurrection, specified in the Criminal Act enacted in 1953.
|Unified Progressive Party chairwoman Lee Jung-hee (fourth from left, front row) makes a statement at a rally protesting the plans to approve Rep. Lee Seok-ki‘s arrest at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap News)|
Under Article 90, anyone who prepares or conspires with intent to create violence to usurp the national territory or subvert the Constitution will be punished by imprisonment.
Article 87 specifies that the ring leader shall be punished by death or imprisonment for life, and that a person who participates in a plot or engages in other activities shall also be punished by death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for not less than five years.
By “subverting the Constitution,” Article 91 states that it means to extinguish the function of the Constitution, or to overthrow the government organs established by the Constitution or to incapacitate their functions by force.
Lee, in this case, looks likely to face the charge of conspiring, which the authorities vow to prove through transcripts of Lee’s recorded speeches and other evidence showing his intent to overthrow the government by pursuing anti-government activism in support of North Korea.
As the probe moves forward this week, observers remain split on the motive for the charge, with the proponents saying the charge faced by Lee and his associates, who had long been suspected of their political intent, should be disassociated with “genuine democratic forces.” Opponents, meanwhile, raise the issue with the timing of the full-blown probe, claiming the spy agency is attempting to water down the debate over NIS reform pushed by the opposition.
Under the special law on crimes harming the Constitutional order, the rebellion-related charges are not subject to a statute of limitations.
Similar legal systems also exist in other countries, such as the United States, which defines treason in its Constitution as specific acts “levying war against the country, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com)