Earlier this month someone made a terroristic threat against South Korean National Assembly member Ha Tae Keung, known in English to some as Young Howard. His office received a package sent from China containing a skull mask and a slashed t-shirt which had been painted with death threats against Ha and his family. Full details of the incident are contained in the press release put out by his office yesterday, reproduced in full below.
Ha, who was imprisoned twice by the Chun Doo-hwan regime in the struggle for democracy, is a member of the Saenuri Party, and a leader of the so-called “New Right,” former 386 generation leftists whose political philosophy might be summarized as “we brought down one Korean dictatorship, now let’s bring down another.” As such, Ha has a lot of enemies, starting with North Korea. Before entering the National Assembly, he was a human rights activist who founded a refugee-staffed radio station aimed at North Korea. The North has a history of attempting to assassinate or otherwise intimidate people with whom it disagrees, including those residing in South Korea.
Ha has also been a thorn to the South Korean left. His principled stand on human rights issues has stood in marked contrast to the shameful silence of most on the left. And in the context of the Lee Seok-ki incident, covered by Steph Haggard in an earlier post, he metaphorically knows where the bodies are buried, through his direct personal knowledge of his peers’ contacts with North Korean agents during their activist days.
That the package was sent from Shenyang, a Chinese city near the North Korean border, greatly complicates the case, since it means that investigation will depend heavily on the cooperation of Chinese authorities. The reader can supply their own subjective assessment of the odds of that occurring.
Blackmail Delivered to Ha Tae Keung, South Korean Assemblyman of Saenuri Party
Seoul, Korea, October 11, 2013
Around 16:00, on the 2nd of October, a package from Shenyang, China was delivered to the local office of Assemblyman Ha Tae Keung in Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun, Busan, which is his local constituency, through an international express mail service.
In the package, which was 25cm wide, 20cm long and 15cm high, there were a purple skull-shaped mask and a white t-shirt that had been slashed by a knife. On the front of the t-shirt, “There will be the devil to pay (대가 치를 것다)” and “You will be purged of sin (죄값 받겠다)” was written in red ink. In addition, “X” marks were written on the words, “family” and “life” on the left sleeve and “reputation” and “right” on the right sleeve. On the back of the shirt, “I will end you (끝을 보자)” was written.
Ha’s office reported it to the police around 11:40 am on October 3rd, and the police are retracing the delivery route of the package and conducting fingerprint and DNA analyses to determine whether or not the target was Assemblyman Ha. The actual recipient on the package was one of his secretaries.
Defectors who saw photos of the package said unanimously that this could be the act of North Korean authorities. The reason is that the writings on the t-shirt are North Korean expressions which are not really used in South Korea. The orthography and word arrangement are not in the South Korean style, but are typical for North Korean writing. In reality, the orthography is exactly the same as the words, which were written on a threatening letter delivered in 2006 to the late Hwang Jang Yop, former secretary of the international affairs in the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, North Korea. He defected to South Korea in 1997.
Despite defectors’ opinions, Assemblyman Ha said that while the police are investigating, he would not jump to the conclusion that it was sent by the North, but will wait until the final results of the analyses are released.
It has not been the first threat allegedly sent from North Korea. In 2001, Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet), a South Korean NGO working for human rights in the North, received a threatening letter and a box, in which there were five dead mice with torn mouths and name tags of founders of the organization. In 2006, the late Hwang Jang Yop received a threatening box. There was an axe across a picture of his face. In addition, the South Korean Defense Minister was also delivered a small pack of white powder, which turned out to be flour, along with a threatening letter early in 2013.
However, there were a few differences from the previous cases. First, the previous packages were delivered by domestic parcel services or were secretly left at the offices at dawn. However, this package to Ha was delivered from Shenyang, China. Second, the target is an incumbent assemblyman. Third, the perpetrator did not deliver it directly to the target but to a secretary of the assemblyman so that it could be passed on to the target. Fourth, previous packages were just statements or threats written on paper. This package, however, contained contents (t-shirt) with threats written on them.
By seeing these differences, it can be assumed that pro-North Korean forces in South Korea might have sent the previous packages. This time, however, there is a possibility that North Korea directly delivered this package from Shenyang, China.
Therefore, assemblyman Ha points out that China’s cooperation is importantly needed to investigate this case. The office of assemblyman Ha Tae Keung plans to request that the Chinese government cooperate with the police of South Korea in an investigation.
In order for an effective investigation, the police need records of the post office’s CCTV in Shenyang, an interview with the clerk of the post office, and information on the stores where that purple skull-shaped mask are sold in Shenyang, according to the police.
If there is any suspicion that this incident involves North Korea, assemblyman Ha expects the Chinese government’s active cooperation. North Korea has already been committing crimes related to drugs, smuggling, forgery, etc. in Chinese territory. Besides, this incident is an act of terror aimed at an assemblyman of China’s strategic partner, South Korea. Ha noted that China has a responsibility to put an effort into not allowing its territory to be a free passageway for criminal activity.
For more information:
The office of Assemblyman Ha Tae Keung, Saenuri Party
#505 National Assembly Member’s Office Bldg., Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul, Korea
T) 82-2-784-2419 F) 82-2-788-0382 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Attachment) Why North Korea considers assemblyman Ha Tae Keung as a thorn.
1. Assemblyman Ha established “Open Radio for North Korea (ONK),” an NGO-based radio station broadcast toward North Korea, before he was elected as an assemblyman. Through his activities in the ONK, he also tried to reveal North Korea’s reality to the international society and released news of South Korea, international community and ideas of democracy and human rights into North Korea via short wave radios.
2. While Ha was the president of ONK, he established the “International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK)” with human rights champions for North Korean issues and played a leading role as a Steering Committee member of the ICNK. As a result, he decisively contributed to the establishment of the UN Commission of Inquiry on North Korea.
3. Even since Ha entered the National Assembly, he has strived to pass the “North Korea Human Rights Act” and is engaging deeply in defector issues.
4. He has especially put an effort to place China’s interest and support on defector problems every time he has met high officials of China such as the Vice-President of China Li Yuanchao. As a result, he drew comments of Chinese high executives that China would start considering defector issues.
5. Recently, through the Lee Seok Ki Incident, Ha Tae Keung also worked as a leader of the North Korean human rights movement by raising the problem of pro-North Korean forces in South Korea and leading the attack against those forces.
6. Assemblyman Ha analyzes the leader of North Korea, types of North Korea’s cyber terror and threats which have not been reported in the media with his strong position on democratization in North Korea through his books “There is No Border in Democracy,” “Cartoon Kim Jong Un,” “From Leaflet to DDOS Attack,” etc. Therefore, he must be a thorn in North’s side because of his various and active movements for North Korean democracy and human rights.