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[Newsmaker] Court rejects injunction on sales of Kim Il-sung memoir

This photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency, shows North Korean people offering flowers in front of the statues of late North Korea founder Kim Il-sung and his late son Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on the occasion of the 89th founding anniversary of the Korean People‘s Revolutionary Army on April 25. (Yonhap)
This photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency, shows North Korean people offering flowers in front of the statues of late North Korea founder Kim Il-sung and his late son Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on the occasion of the 89th founding anniversary of the Korean People‘s Revolutionary Army on April 25. (Yonhap)
The court said Friday that it had rejected an injunction request from NGOs to ban the sales and distribution of a memoir of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung.

Kim Seung-kyun, who runs a company that used to trade with North Korea, republished the eight-volume memoirs, titled “With the Century,” last month for the first time in South Korea, and sales of the books once called by the Supreme Court “an item of expression that benefits the enemy” began.

The set of books chronicle Kim Il-sung’s life from his childhood to his time in the anti-Japan movement under the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The memoir depicts Kim as a heroic guerilla fighter resisting Japanese atrocities.

Ever since it was first published in 1992 on Kim Il-sung’s 80th birthday, the memoir has been used as a propaganda tool to justify and glorify the dictatorship of the Kim regime, including that of the current leader Kim Jong-un, the founder’s grandson.

Individuals and NGOs such as the New Paradigm of Korea filed for an injunction last month, saying the sales and distribution of the books will infringe on Constitutional rights to human dignity and harm the basic order of a free democracy.

The Seoul Western District Court dismissed their request, saying their claims and materials submitted were not enough to issue an injunction as the sales and distribution of the memoir do not infringe on the applicants’ rights to human dignity.

It appears that the applicants are seeking a ban out of concern that the sales and distribution of the books can infringe on the rights to human dignity of the Korean people, but as these rights are exclusive rights, the applicants cannot file on behalf of the Korean people, the judge said.

Article 7 of the National Security Act stipulates that “any person who praises, incites or propagates the activities of an antigovernment organization, a member thereof or of the person who has received an order from it, or who acts in concert with it … shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than seven years.”

In a 2011 trial on a man surnamed Jung who was indicted for visiting North Korea without government permission after following the North’s system, the Supreme Court said that a copy of “With the Century” that was in Jung’s possession was “an item of expression that benefits the enemy” as it upheld a lower court ruling of a year’s imprisonment.

In 2016, a professor at the University of Ulsan was sentenced to a suspended jail term of six months for violation of the National Security Act for making his students write a book report on “With the Century.”

In August 1994, a South Korean publisher who tried to publish the memoir was detained.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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