Photo: Hong Gang-cheol. Credit: Hong Gang-cheol's Kakao Page.
The Supreme Court 대법원 found Hong Gang-cheol 홍강철, a North Korean defector who was accused of espionage under the Park Geun-hye 박근혜 administration, not guilty of all charges. In the decision rendered on December 24, 2020, the court found the National Intelligence Service 국가정보원, South Korea’s spy agency, obtained Hong’s confession under duress. Hong was cleared of all charges after seven years of legal battle.
Hong is the second North Korean defector to have their charge of espionage disproven, following the case of Yoo U-seong 유우성 who prevailed in the Supreme Court, where it was found that the NIS fabricated evidence in an earlier decision. The conservative Park administration had jailed ten defectors from North Korea under the charges of espionage; the attorney for Hong claimed that all of those cases must be reviewed for signs of evidence tampering and coerced confession. The Democratic Party 민주당 recently passed a bill that moved the authority to investigate North Korean espionage cases from the NIS to the police, in part to prevent this type of abuse. (See TBR’s related coverage, "Democrats Pass a Huge Slate of Laws".)