Special to WorldTribune.com
A pro-North Korea activist who was once imprisoned for his role in sending a South Korean student on an unauthorized visit to the North now has what some see as the top job in the once anti-communist government in Seoul.
Im Jong-Seok, 51, a prominent former student democracy activist, is chief of staff for leftist President Moon Jae-In and responsible for day-to-day operations at the Blue House in Seoul. In fact conservative critics charge that he and negotiating partners in North Korea are playing a dominant role in South Korea’s foreign policy.
“The liberal South Korean president is banking on Im, and a handful of other key players, to rebuild inter-Korean ties strained by nearly a decade of conservative rule in the South and the North’s accelerating nuclear and missile programs,” Reuters noted in a profile of Im.
In 1989, a 22-year-old South Korean student caused an uproar when she sneaked into North Korea and was filmed advocating for unification and meeting then leader Kim Il-Sung.
Im was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years for violating national security laws for his role in the unauthorized visit to North Korea by the student, who was also arrested on her return.
Im is now “at the center of concern that Seoul may prioritize cross-border rapprochement over an air-tight alliance with the United States,” the profile said.
Dr. Tara O, Adjunct Fellow at the Pacific Forum Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) and Director of Director, East Asia Research Center, wrote an extensive report about Im. Following are excerpts:
“On May 31, 2018, Im Jong-Seok, the Blue House Chief of Staff, sued Dr. Ji Man-won for defamation. Im also sued a small, online independent news outlet called Newstown, which publishes Dr. Ji’s work, and others for defamation at the same time.”
“Dr. Ji, has referred to Im Jong-Seok as “Jusapa.” Ji is charged with uploading writings that refer to Im as “the core and the godfather of Jusapa” and an “extreme communist” on his website last year. Ji based the evidence for his claim on an announcement by the Agency for National Security Planning’s (ANSP) (predecessor to the National Intelligence Service).”