S. Korean student demonstrators sentenced to prison
October 29, 1996
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EST (1800 GMT)
In this story:
From Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Fifty-one South Korean students
received prison sentences of up to three years on Tuesday for
their role in violent week-long pro-North Korean campus
demonstrations in August. Another 59 students received
suspended sentences following the unrest during a banned
reunification rally at Yonsei University in Seoul.
The sentences are part of a harsh crackdown on South Korea's
student movement, which backed President Kim Young Sam's rise
to power but which Kim has now branded a "terrorist" threat
to national security.
Authorities, who say the movement has been taken over by
agents acting on behalf of North Korea, have produced stacks
of North Korean propaganda they said was seized from the
The students receiving jail terms were sentenced to serve
between eight months and three years for taking part in an
illegal protest, engaging in acts of violence and obstructing
officials in their duty.
The others were handed suspended jail sentences of between
one year and 1 1/2 years, meaning they won't have to spend
times behind bars if they stay out of trouble.
While the prosecution had asked for prison terms of up to six
years, the ruling was considered harsher than expected.
Defense attorneys had called for suspended sentences, saying
the students had shown repentance for their roles in the
"We cannot glorify contraventions of law and order in the
name of unification," Presiding Judge Min Hyong-ki told the
About 7,000 students had gathered at the university for the
reunification rally. After a week's standoff, thousands of
police, backed by helicopters spraying tear gas, stormed
classroom buildings where the students were holed up.
One police officer was killed and more than 1,000 police
officers and students were injured during the confrontations.
Altogether, more than 5,500 students were taken into custody
and more than 400 were charged. Those not sentenced on
Tuesday are expected to hear court rulings later in the year.
On Monday police arrested the leader of the radical student
group, Hanchongryon, which led the Yonsei demonstrations.
Park Byoung-un, 23, was held along with 23 others.
North Korea has denounced the action against the student
Reuters contributed to this report.
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