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South Korea high court rules pro-North Korea music violates security law

The Supreme Court of South Korea [official website] on Monday upheld an appellate court decision that sentenced a defendant to a two-year suspended sentence for possessing instrumental music with titles praising North Korea. Prosecutors charged the defendant, identified only by her last name Song, with violating South Korea's National Security Act, which prohibits people from disseminating materials that promote North Korea. A district court dismissed the charges, ruling that, since the songs lacked lyrics, they could not violate the law. An appellate court, however, reversed the district court. The Supreme Court held that the lack of lyrics did not prevent prosecution [Yonhap report] under the law and that the materials should be looked at in context.

In September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized South Korea [press release] for using the National Security Act to restrict speech that does not pose a threat to national security. HRW claims that the law "clearly violates South Korea's international human-rights obligations." In 2004, an estimated 100,000 protesters gathered in support [JURIST report] of the National Security Act. The Constitutional Court upheld the law [JURIST report] earlier that year.

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