A group led by Lim Jong-seok, presidential secretary was delivering North Korea over 2.2 billion won for 13 years.
There are people who work on behalf of North Korea to finance its regime in South Korea. They threaten South Korean media and broadcasting companies that use images or video contents of North Korea in the news saying that “You must pay copyright fees.”
This (Illegal funding of North Korea) is happening while the international community is tightening its income sources to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations. What is surprising is that this financing activity is led by President Moon’s secretary named Im Jong Seok.
Earlier this month (DATE), a call was made to the head of production for Defense TV (of South Korea). It was from an associate from a group that was entrusted with copyrights from North Korea.
He regarded the scenes of Chairman Kim Jong Un and missiles launching used in North Korea-related television program as a problem. Meaning that the Defense TV must pay to use any contents containing scenes of North Korea.
The television program about North Korea which is run by Defense Media Agency (of South Korea) focuses on ensuring that South Korean military troops and personnel to have a correct perception of North Korea.
However, paying Pyongyang for any contents regarding North Korea violates South Korea’s national security act and UN sanctions. In other words, South Koreans are indirectly paying money to North Korea when watching contents related to North Korea on South Korea’s national television channels such as KBS.
There are not many people who know that the video contents of North Korea used in the news and cultural programs attract a huge sum of money for North Korea. The reason is that only verbal communication is used between broadcasting personnel who are concerned about or interested in the North-Korea funding business. South Korea’s national Broadcast and media companies such as KBS are already paying a considerable sum to North Korea. Even when an announcer makes negative comments about South Korea on North Korea’s state news, these footage were purchased by South Korea’s media companies.
The debate over copyrights for North Korean TV began to pick up in 2005. The North and South Korean Economic and Cultural Cooperation Group A.K.A InTerKorea Group has put pressure South Korean media and broadcast companies while claiming the group has been authorized by the North Korean Chosun Central Broadcasting Commission. Government officials say the copyright fees to North Korea, which had been worth several hundreds of millions of Won a year are on the rise. This money was remitted to the account of the North Korean authorities. In response to North Korea’s violent provocations of ROKS Cheonan sinking of 2010, South Korea’s government sanctions against North Korea prohibited cash payments and investments to North Korea. However, collection of copyright fees did not stop. It is not possible to send money to North Korea as of now, but what they are trying to do is that they will make a deposit in the court saying that they will transfer the money once the sanctions are lifted. According to Figures from South Korea’s ministry of unification, the sum collected from copyright fees is worth around $18.767 million (2.2 billion won) over the past 13 years.
The bigger problem is that the founder of InterKorea Group is the secretary of South Korea’s president Moon Jae-In. Not only is Im Jong Seok in charge of South Korea’s policy towards North Korea but also he led the launch of the InterKorea Group and took on the role of chief director. On the website of InterKorea Group, photos of Im Jong-Seok are posted with his greetings. (The website no longer contains information on Im Jong Seok.)
According to an official of InterKoreaGroup “Im Jong Seok has quit ties with the group after being appointed as presidential secretary of President Moon Jae-In.” Shin Dong-Ho, who is in charge of President Moon’s speech was also named as the chairman of the group. At the time of investigation on InterKoreaGroup’s website, there was no other documents other than North and South Korea’s copyright business. Meaning there is no other activity that the group was carrying out other than collecting copyright fees. InterKoreaGroup has been a subject of controversy several times in the mid 2000s. For instance, the group has charged domestic publishers for $676,000 (about 759 million won) for having published literature works of a North Korea author.
Most of them were small companies and filed lawsuits against the copyright claims coming from InterKoreaGroup. According to a report made in 2009, the Ministry of Unification stated “It is not confirmed that InterKoreaGroup is a partner working on behalf of North Korea’s copyrights office that it is unclear whether the copyright feels were passed on to the author.” In another instance, the group was caught holding a sum of 127 million won. The Blue House also reviewed cancelling of the InterKoreaGroup and its shady business stating that it is unclear whether the group’s interest really lies in protecting the copyrights of works belonging to North Korea. According to the ministry of reunification, “InterKoreaGroup has been relatively aggressive with South Korea’s publishing and media companies on the matters related to copyrights.”
Another issue is that of the matter is that North Korean authorities use South Korea’s broadcasting companies’ contents without permission. The official media such as Chosun Central TV and Labor Newspaper use South Korea’s TV screens and pictures indiscriminately to denunciate South Korea for propaganda purposes. Because of this fact, the North Korean authorities have never publicly raised copyright issues between the two Koreas.
North Korea is also a signatory to the Berne Convention for the international protection of copyrights. According to Lee Chan-ho who is a lawyer working for a law firm called “Pacific”, “It is legally legitimate and there is no problem in claiming that copyright fees should be paid for the usage of contents related to North Korea. However, it is necessary to take a cautious approach considering equity and public opinions on inter-Korean relations. In one occasion, North Korea had received criticism from the international community for illegally streaming and viewing live sports events.
Considering this situation, the voice of the copyright issue between North and South should be sought for a new direction. First, it is necessary to help North Korea understand that they must respect and follow the law regarding copyright themselves. South Korea must also urge and point out that the copyright fees must be paid for any video contents belonging to South Korea. If necessary, we can consider providing education on copyrights.
Ironically, as soon as Moon Jae-In is taking charge of South Korea’s regime, North Korea has been increasingly urging for copyright claims. According to personnel familiar with the matter, InterKoreaGroup has step up its activities and is getting its hands on small scale broadcasting companies now that the conservative regime is no longer in power. There are also voices saying that the group led by Im Jong Seok is squeezing money out of every broadcast and media companies to finance North Korea. On top of that, the fact that InterKoreaGroup is now being led by South Korea’s presidential secretary is putting even greater pressure on broadcast and media companies.
Broadcasting companies run by the Blue House are caught in a dilemma as well. In the case of DefenseTV, the act of paying for North Korean’s video contents itself is a violation of the government’s sanctions against North Korea. According to professor from a national policy research institute “It is reasonable that South Korea stops the copyright fess payment to the North until the two Koreas reach a mutual agreement on the matter.”