Police raided headquarters of a South Korean left-wing organization Wednesday, suspecting it of praising North Korea in breach of the National Security Law.
Investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency stormed the head office of Corea Alliance in central Seoul and five other offices related to the group. Police arrested an official, identified only by his surname Kang, at his residence after obtaining an arrest warrant for 10 key members of the group.
It is currently tracking down seven others in Korea and two overseas for their arrest.
Police accused Corea Alliance of being sympathizers of the communist regime, therefore violating the 1948 National Security Law.
South Korea has put in place the controversial National Security Law that prohibits anti-state activities, such as those supporting North Korea. Those found to be breaching the law can face life imprisonment.
Police also took issue with the leftists distributing “pro-North” leaflets and having a meeting in Germany with key officials from the reclusive regime.
Corea Alliance was founded in November 2011, led by “patriotic” organizations and individuals “seeking a democracy and reunification for two Koreas.”
In recent months, the group has focused on condemning the conservative President Park Geun-hye administration and the U.S. troops stationed in Korea.
Six left-leaning organizations campaigning for gender equality, democracy and anti-capitalism are a part of Corea Alliance.
The pro-North group has been searched a few times in the past on charges of violating the National Security Law, most recently in December last year.
The raid came a day after Corea Alliance announced that it would file for a compensation suit against the government, denouncing the police for “intervening in the organization’s peaceful assemblies and demonstrations” in a violent and illegal manner.
In Korea, several organizations have been labeled as illegal by the Supreme Court for allegedly advocating North Korea, which the progressive bloc has viewed as an attempt to silence criticism of the government.
The Supreme Court outlawed a Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification, an association of civic groups known as BumMinRyun, in 1997 for its outright support for North Korea and protest against the presence of the U.S. military here.
The South Korean Federation of University Students Councils, a leftist student group called Hanchongryun here, was also criminalized the same year for the same reason.
The National Security Law, which dates back to 1948, has stirred controversy in the divided nation, with left-leaning activists calling it a gimmick to stifle freedom of expression and oppress left-wing activists.
South Korea remains technically at war with North Korea as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
By Ock Hyun-ju (email@example.com