“‘The principle of clarity,’ an expression of the principle of a constitutional state, is required for all legislation restricting basic rights. If a criminal cannot know what is prohibited and what is allowed in accordance with the meaning of norms, this will lead to weakened legal stability and predictability and enable arbitrary enforcement by law enforcement authorities.”
The “principle of clarity” mentioned above means that people must be able to clearly understand what is illegal or legal from what is said in laws. As an example of the principle of clarity, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) pointed out the ambiguity present in the North Korean Criminal Code. The COI’s report, which was released in February 2014, says that “those who illegally cross the border are regularly considered to have committed ‘treason against the Fatherland by defection’ under article 62 of the Criminal Code. This crime is punishable by a minimum of five years of ‘reform through labor.’ Illegal border crossers are alternatively charged under another of the vaguely defined ‘anti-state or anti-people crimes.’” The Ministry of People’s Security (MPS, now called the Ministry of Social Security) reportedly issued a decree in 2010 making the crime of defection a “crime of treachery against the nation.” Therefore, the COI recommended that North Korean authorities “reform the Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to abolish vaguely worded ‘anti-state and anti-people crimes.’” Thus, there is a serious concern that the lack of the “principle of clarity” in North Korea’s Criminal Code frequently leads to “arbitrary detention,” which is considered a crime against humanity.
Failures to observe the principle of clarity in laws are typically found in countries where the rule of law is not adequately established. However, it is hard to believe that an amendment ignoring the basic principle of the rule of law – the principle of clarity – has been proposed in a democratic country like the Republic of Korea. In fact, the principle of clarity was ignored in a recent amendment made to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, which was passed by South Korea’s National Assembly on December 22 by approval of 187 members. The deliberations that were held before the passing of the law centered around the amendment’s addition of Article 24, which concerns the “prohibition of violations of inter-Korean agreements.”
Amendment to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act
Article 24 (Prohibition of Violations of Inter-Korean Agreements)
① No one may harm or generate serious risk to the life and body of the people by acts that fall under any of the following subparagraphs:
Loudspeaker broadcasting to North Korea in the area of the Military Demarcation Line
Posting of visual media (posters) about North Korea in the Military Demarcation Line area
Spreading leaflets or other items ......
[Source: Daily NK]