Pro-North Korean forces: Legacy of divided peninsula

Pro-North Korean forces: Legacy of divided peninsula
This file photo taken on September 4, 2013 shows Lee Seok-gi (centre), a leftist lawmaker from South Korea's United Progress Party, after a parliamentary vote on a government motion for his arrest on sedition charges outside the National Assembly building in Seoul.

Last June, Rep. Lim Su-kyung of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy was at the centre of a sour ideological debate after calling North Korean defectors "apostates."

A former high-profile pro-unification activist, Lim was once called the "flower of reunification" by Pyongyang for her unauthorized participation in the 1989 World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang as a university student.

The 44-year-old lawmaker made the remarks during an impromptu meeting with a defector-turned-college student at a bar, who then revealed the incident on his Facebook account

The incident came at a delicate time when leftist politicians are being criticised anew for their past pro-North Korea activities. The National Assembly has since been working to oust Lee Seok-gi of the United Progressive Party, who was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government.

The beleaguered politicians were called "jusapa," a term used to describe student activists in the 1980-90s who espoused the ideology of "juche," or self-reliance, which is the theoretical foundation of the North.

Six decades after the Korean War, controversy persists over jusapa or pro-North forces, with their definition and members remaining unclear. Conservative administrations and politicians have often triggered the ideological dispute in the run-up to key elections, which critics said was an attempt to agitate public sentiment and sway the vote for the sake of national security.

This represents a painful legacy of the divided peninsula: North Korea has since its birth been a major source of not only security threats but also a deep-rooted ideological rift in South Korean society.

Lee, president of the Korea University student council in 1996, was a jusapa factionist until 1999, when he converted after two years in prison.

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