South Korea - Hunger Strike to Abolish the NSL

Posted by under Human Rights Watch on 24 December 2000

UA 43/00: 'It's time to abolish the National Security Law.' "Fifty-two years is more than enough. It's time to abolish the National Security Law."

More than 20 human rights and civic activists in South Korea went on a hunger strike to abolish the National Security Law (NSL) at Myungdong Catholic Church in Seoul on Dec 18.

They are insisting that, despite the introduction of a bill in the National Assembly to abolish the NSL, none of the political parties have any intention of passing this bill. The hunger strikers are urging that President Kim Dae-jung must make a political decision to abolish the NSL by the end of this year.

Indeed, from the time when President Kim received the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway, there have been many protests involving a large number of lawyers, professors and human rights activists to abolish the NSL in South Korea.

To support the hunger strikers and the people of South Korea, we urge you to take prompt action on this issue in order to create international pressure to abolish the NSL in South Korea.


The NSL in South Korea has cast a dark shadow of oppression on countless people since its enactment in 1948. From the beginning, the NSL has played a critical and inhuman role in the maintenance of dictatorial regimes in South Korea by casting a pervasive net of fear and oppression, especially during the military regimes from the 1960s to the 1980s when more than 10,000 people were tried and given jail terms for violating the NSL. Over the years, it has been used to arrest thousands of innocent people unfairly and unjustly.

The NSL is widely criticized for its arbitrary components. For example, when it is broadly applied, Article 7 of the NSL can be used to suppress virtually any activities of South Korea's citizens. Mere possession of a book or viewing a film can be considered a violation of Article 7 of the NSL. This surreal application of the law has occurred many times. Currently, the South Korean government is under heavy pressure from human rights organizations to repeal Article 7 of the NSL, which states:

(1) Any person who has benefited the anti-state organization by way of praising, encouraging or siding with or through other means the activities of an anti-state organization, its member or a person who had been under instruction from such organization, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than seven years. [...]

(5) Any person who has, for the purpose of committing the actions as stipulated in paragraphs 1 through 4 of this article, produced, imported, duplicated, possessed, transported, disseminated, sold or acquired documents, drawings or any other similar means of statement shall be punished by the same penalty as set forth in each paragraph.

During the Kim Dae-jung administration, despite the much talked about reforms and the government's claim of a clean human rights record, the NSL continues its fearful presence by limiting and violating the very basic human rights of the Korean people. According to a report by Amnesty International (AI), 99 prisoners of conscience are still in jail; most of them are trade unionists and student activists for violation of the NSL.


Please write two letters. Please send the first protest letter, fax or e-mail to South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the second as an e-mail to two party representatives in South Korea. The addresses and suggested points to be raised in these letters are given below.

1. Mr. Kim Dae-jung President of Republic of Korea The Chungwoadae 1 Sejong-ro, Chonro-gu Seoul, 110-050 REPUBLIC OF KOREA FAX: +822 770-0253 E-MAIL: SALUTATION: Your Excellency

Send copies to: Mr. Kim Jeong-kil Ministry of Justice 1 Jungang-dong, Kwachon-si Kyonggi Province, 427-760 REPUBLIC OF KOREA FAX: +822 504-3337 E-MAIL: SALUTATION: Dear


- Strongly express your great concern and disappointment regarding the existence of the NSL even though President Kim Dae-jung has been known as a champion of human rights causes and repeatedly has mentioned that improving human rights conditions in South Korea is his utmost priority. In addition, during his regime for the last three years, there have been no changes made to the NSL.

- Urge him to immediately make a political decision to abolish the NSL.

- State that, without abolishing the infamous NSL in South Korea, the basic human rights situation in the country cannot improve significantly.

- State that the international community will watch his action or inaction as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2000 to deal with this issue.

2. Mr. Kim Jung-kwon Representative of the New Millenium Democratic Party Kisan Building, 15 Yoido-dong, Youngdeungpo-gu Seoul, 150-010 REPUBLIC OF KOREA E-MAIL: SALUTATION: Dear

Mr. Lee Hoi-chang President of the Grand National Party 17-7 Yoido-dong, Youngdeungpo-gu Seoul, 150-010 REPUBLIC OF KOREA E-MAIL: SALUTATION: Dear


- Request that they hold a meeting of the National Assembly to abolish the NSL as soon as possible. - Urge them to accept the U.N. Human Rights Committee's view and take meaningful steps toward dismantling the NSL.

***Please send a copy of your letter to AHRC Urgent Appeals***

Email: Fax : +852 2698 6367

AHRC Urgent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission Unit D, 7th Floor, Mongkok Commercial Centre 16 - 16B Argyle Street, Kowloon, HONG KONG Tel: +(852) - 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) - 2698-6367 E-mail:

Please contact the AHRC Urgent Appeals Coordinator if you require further information or to make requests for further appeals.

AHRC has an Urgent Appeal Programme which operates around the clock. AHRC issues urgent appeals on behalf of persons or groups of persons whose human rights have been violated. All urgent appeals released by the AHRC since late 1997 can be accessed at our website:

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