Appeal for Solidarity with Korean Socialists

On 5 May 2010, the rightwing government of Lee Myung Bak detained six activists (Jo Il-jin, Kim Deuk-yeong, Kim Hyeong-hwan, Kim Ji-tae, Kim Mun-ju, Shin Myeong-hui) who were in street selling a registered press publication Left21. Left21 is a revolutionary anti-capitalist paper, fully registered and published fortnightly. Since it began publication in March 2009, supporters of Left21 have organised regular street sales in various areas of Seoul in order to introduce revolutionary and left arguments and ideas to wider audiences. The detentions are an attack on the freedom of press and democracy by the Lee Myung Bak government.

After the police found there had been no violation in selling a legal publication, the public prosecutor’s office charged the six Left21 supporters (hereafter, the left21-six) in violation of the public gathering and assembly act. They argued that selling a paper with criticisms of the government was a kind of protest, and was unauthorised and thus illegal. Since the candlelight protest of 2008, the police have abused the public gatherings and assembly act to ban even press conferences and one-person protests, which have been recognised in South Korean society as fundamental democratic rights. This is another example of such abuse and repression.

The worst thing is that the six found out all this when they received the summary order of the court fining them eight million Korean wons (around $8,000) for the violation. They did not even have the opportunity to defend themselves in court. This goes to show that there is a concerted effort by the police, prosecutors and the court to repress democracy and any resistance against the government.

The six supporters, agreeing with the understanding of All Together that the attack on Left21is one of many signs that the Lee Myung Bak government is in deep crisis, decided to fight back and formed an ad hoc committee to defend the freedom of press and to demand nullification of the court ruling. The first appellate court meeting took place on 16 September 2010, where the former prosecutor judge interrupted the testimony of the leader of the left21-six, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. The second meeting took place on 21 October when, under pressure from the demonstration organised by supporters of the left21-six, the judge allowed the full testimony of the leader to be heard. The next trial date is set for 9 December 2010.

Already seven major civic and social organisations have issued a joint statement condemning the incident and defending the six, saying they will join together in the struggle against the government’s attack and repression of progressive press and the freedom of speech.

I sincerely appeal to you for solidarity. Please sign your name to the protest statement below and email us. Please also circulate the appeal widely. Solidarity messages are also welcome. ALL signatures should come before 18 November 2010.

Emial: contactcjpark@yahoo.com. Your signatures and solidarity message would be greatly appreciated.

PROTEST STATEMENT

We the undersigned are deeply concerned to hear the news of the arrest and court ruling that fined six supporters (Jo Il-jin, Kim Deuk-yeong, Kim Hyeong-hwan, Kim Ji-tae, Kim Mun-ju, Shin Myeong-hui) of Left21, a registered anti-capitalist paper in South Korea, for selling a registered paper in street. The charge that they violated the public gathering and assembly act is ludicrous. This is clearly a concerted effort of the police, prosecutors, and the court to repress the freedom of press and democracy.

We strongly condemn the Lee Myung Bak government’s repression. We demand that the charges and the fine against the six Left21 supporters be dropped immediately. We intend to publicise this outrage to the working people of the world to build up a chorus of voices demanding it comes to an end.

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