EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 25/18/95
UA 193/95 Health Concern / Fear of Ill-Treatment / Prisoner of
2 August 1995
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
(South Korea) Park Yong-gil(f), aged 75
Park Yong-gil was arrested on 31 July 1995 in the Republic of Korea (South
Korea) for making an unauthorized visit to the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea (North Korea). Amnesty International is concerned for her health,
given her advanced age, and fears that she may face long interrogation and
ill-treatment by South Korea's intelligence agency, the Agency for National
Security Planning (ANSP).
Park Yong-gil could be imprisoned for up to 10 years under the National Security
Law. Amnesty International has adopted her as a prisoner of conscience, held
for the non-violent exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and
association. The organization is calling for her immediate and unconditional
Park Yong-gil is the wife of the Reverend Moon Ik-hwan who was imprisoned for
four years after making an unauthorized visit to North Korea in 1989. He was
adopted as a prisoner of conscience until his release under a presidential
amnesty in 1993 and died in 1994. According to reports, Park Yong-gil made
the visit in the hope of improving relations between North and South Korea.
She also wished to express her condolences on the death of former President
Kim Il Sung, since he had offered his condolences on the death of her husband.
She is reported to have flown to North Korea on 28 June 1995 via Beijing and
to have returned to South Korea on 31 July, across the demilitarized zone which
separates the two countries. During her visit she reportedly attended a memorial
ceremony for former President Kim Il Sung and met his son, Kim Jong Il. She
also visited several tourist sites. Her visit was conducted in an open fashion
and it is difficult to see how she can have posed a threat to state security
in South Korea.
The National Security Law prohibits unauthorized travel to North Korea or
contact with North Koreans and also punishes those who "praise" or "benefit"
North Korea. In 1994, dozens of people were arrested under the provisions of
this law for attempting to express condolences on the death of the North Korean
President. Prisoners currently serving long prison terms for making
unauthorized visits to North Korea include writer Hwang Suk-yong and
parliamentarian Suh Kyung-won, sentenced to seven and 10 years' imprisonment
respectively. They have also been adopted by Amnesty International as prisoners
National Security Law suspects are often questioned for up to 20 days by the
ANSP and up to 30 days by prosecutors. The ANSP is often reported to have
ill-treated political suspects, including the use of sleep deprivation,
threats, intimidation, long periods of interrogation and beatings. Amnesty
International is concerned for the health of Park Yong-kil, given her advanced
age, and is appealing to the authorities to ensure that she is given adequate
medical care and is not ill-treated in any way.