South Korea: Lee Jin-young Accused for Violating National Security Law

Last Tuesday, when I was looking through the “Take Action Now” in Amnesty International USA webpage, one urgent action grabbed my attention. The article was titled “Urgent Action Update: Activist Held In Solitary Confinement (South Korea: UA 20/17).”

The article was basically about a South Korean online library (Labor’s Books) owner, Lee Jin-young. He was arrested at the beginning of January for violating Article 7 of the National Security Law. He was accused of selling books and magazines that were”anti-government.”

Before Lee’s capture, in July of the past year, the police seized about 100 books, 10 research documents, one hard drive, and other electronic devices from Lee.

According to his wife, Lee is placed in a confinement. He is only allowed to exercise for an hour and meet visitors for ten minutes a day.

Because I once saw people being arrested for reading books about North Korea in a South Korean movie, I wanted to know more about Lee Jin-young and the Article 7 of the National Security Law. Therefore, I did some more research.

According to Amnesty International Korea, Article 7 of the National Security Law is provided vaguely; “Those who create, import, copy, own, transport, publicize, sell, and purchase the documents, paintings, and other types of expressions that praise, encourage, and propagate about anti-government organizations will be sentenced with 7 years of imprisonment.”

Here, the law is not clear and is interpreted literally. According to KyungHyang Shinmun, one of the South Korea’s famous newspaper publishing company, Article 7 of the National Security Law was and is a controversial issue up to this day. It is because those who make discussions in social medias and in small or large groups about “anti-government organization,” or North Korea, may be arrested. Furthermore, those who sing North Korean songs or those who make good comments about a North Korean child singing may be even prosecuted under the law.

2017. MBC News. Lee Jin-young Arrested for ‘selling anti-government expressed goods’. Web. 6 Mar. 2017.

According to Hankyoreh, another South Korean well-known newspaper publishing company, many people are demonstrating and making campaigns for Lee Jin-young’s release. They maintain few arguments; 1. Lee did not take actions privately but openly, 2. the books that he was selling were not illegal because they can be seen in public libraries.

However, on February 4th, 2017, Lee Jin-young was restricted for few reasons; 1. Since the national company, Korea Railroad, that Lee works at is too influential to the other citizens that his anti-government actions can also influence the other citizens. 2. The documents that Lee distributed are continuously being spread by people who purchased those documents. Those documents could bring a harm to our society.

Amnesty International now asks South Korean government three things for Lee Jin-young and for the better improvement;

  1. Immediately drop the charges and release Lee Jin-young as he is prosecuted solely for the peaceful exercise of his human right to freedom of expression;
  2. Until he is released, immediately end the solitary confinement of Lee Jin-young and ensure he is allowed meaningful human contact with the outside world as well as adequate medical care;
  3. Stop the arbitrary use of, and fundamentally amend or abolish, the National Security Law and ensure that South Korea meets its international obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, peaceful assembly and association.


Kim, Kyunam. “‘Labor’s Books’ Arrest of Lee-Jinyoung Is an Oppression of Freedom of Expression …Release Him.” Hankyoreh, 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

Lee, Beomjun. “Article 7 of the National Security Law Is an Issue. Why?” The Kyunghyang Shinmun, 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

“The Representative Director of an Online Library Accused by the National Security Law.” Amnesty International Korea, 01 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

“Urgent Action Update: Activist Held In Solitary Confinement (South Korea: UA 20/17).” Amnesty International, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.


Labor’s Book web site



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