A South Korean court on Tuesday jailed two leaders of a left-wing group for spreading North Korean propaganda and engaging in activities sympathetic to the communist nation.
Choi Han-Wook and Kang Jin-Goo, current and former leaders of the Solidarity for Practice of the South-North Joint Declaration, were given prison sentences of 24 months and 30 months respectively.
The court convicted them of pledging allegiance to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and carrying out directives from the North's agents.
Two other senior group members were sentenced to 18-month prison terms, suspended for three years. "The defendants have beautified North Korea, disregarding the poverty-stricken North Korean people and the father-son dictatorship," the Seoul Central District Court said in a verdict quoted by Yonhap news agency.
"Their activities could have given (the South Korean) people a distorted view of the communist country." The tough National Security Law under which the four were charged outlaws activities seen as benefiting North Korea, including contacting its nationals without government approval and sympathising with its regime.
The court concluded that the group is "pro-enemy." It was established in 2000 to commemorate the first-ever inter-Korean summit that year.
Liberals and civic groups have long urged the government to repeal the law, which they say has been abused to penalise anti-government movements.
Conservatives say it should stay in place to counter communist propaganda. The two Koreas have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended only in an armistice and not a peace treaty.