The ruling Saenuri Party is pushing for a revision to a law designed to compensate former pro-democracy activists who were imprisoned, tortured and prosecuted under authoritarian governments in the 1960s-80s.
Rep. Song Yong-geun and 10 other lawmakers from the conservative party submitted the amendment bill on Monday following recent reports that some of the left-wing United Progressive Party members accused of plotting an armed rebellion and forming an anti-state organization benefited from the same decree.
They propose the prime minister could ask for a second review of compensation decisions if the proposed recipient was deemed unworthy of such rewards.
The amendments would allow the government to retrieve awarded funds, if a second review found the reparation recipient undeserving.
Under the existing Democratization Movement Activists’ Honor-Restoration and Compensation Act, external parties cannot petition the review commission for reconsideration of a compensation decision “even if the verdict is wrongful,” according to a press release from Song’s office.
Although hundreds of activists have since the early 2000s cleared their names and received reparations without causing public outcry, accusations of pro-North Korean conspirators receiving funds through the act have caused concern, said Song.
He added that 88 convicted antistate cabal members from previous cases involving organizations such as the Constitutional Assembly Group, convicted as an antigovernment group through the National Security Act in 1987, have received a gross sum of 2.8 billion won ($2.58 million) from taxpayers’ pockets, he added.
A National Assembly official who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue told The Korea Herald by phone that the numbers were “a minimum tally that could include more individuals.”
Reports that UPP lawmaker Lee Seok-gi also received funds through the beneficial law have led to increased public support for the proposed modifications.
Lee is currently under investigation for allegedly attempting to violently overthrow the government. He was also sentenced to a 30-month prison term in 2003 after being found guilty of treason, only to be exonerated by then-President Roh Moo-hyun five months later.
Concerns that convicted conspirators were enjoying generous government funds through the regulation are not new. Similar calls to improve the act by former Saenuri Party assembly members Jeon Yeo-ok and Kwon Kyung-seok were proffered and discussed at Korea’s lawmaking body in 2009.
The commission for remuneration decisions was established in August 2000 and began awarding funds in 2002 to former activists who were found to have been improperly found guilty under former administrations.
The group has received over 15,000 remuneration applications and endorsed 13,000 of them, while 4,932 individuals have received a total of 42.4 billion won ($39.13 million) in remunerations and 70.9 billion won ($65.43 million) in social security funds as of June 2013.
By Jeong Hunny (email@example.com