Freedom of thought and conscience are fundamental human rights and are guaranteed in a democratic society. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea states that “the state has the duty to affirm and guarantee the inviolable and fundamental human rights of individuals”(Article 10). However, in South Korean society, this common sense goes out the window the moment someone is labeled a “bbalgaengyi” (reds) or a “jongbukjueuija” (followers of North Korea). This is because the National Security Act legally supports a divided country with anti-communism at the forefront. When it was first enacted in 1948, it was seen as a temporary device to maintain authoritarianism under the divided system, but the reality was different. Even as political democratization has progressed and inter-Korean relations have improved, it has remained powerful as a device for restricting popular movements and unification movements and controlling ideas. It has not only restricted social movements but also controlled academic and artistic activities and regulated people’s inner worlds. The National Security Act has been controversial since the 1987 democratization, but it is still alive and well in 2023. For a long time, research on the National Security Act was a taboo subject that was not easily accessible because it could be considered a violation of the law. Adding to the difficulty of research was the lack of access to documentation of cases where the law was applied. With the democratization of 1987 and the development of the Northern Policy and inter-Korean relations in the early 1990s, the environment was ripe for rethinking the meaning of the National Security Act. Pioneering studies before and after 1990 and the Constitutional Court’s unconstitutionality review process, which began in 1990, led to a serious examination of its legal issues. Theological commentary on the National Security Act is scarce. Not only from the point of view of the church, which was responsible for integrating the public into the anti-communist ideology during the formation and development of the pro- American anti-communist state, but also from the point of view of Minjung theology. For theologians, too, it was not a simple matter to overcome the taboo of anti-communism. They were always conscious of the limits of that taboo, and when they crossed them, they were bound to face the swift blade of state power. In the absence of a theological response to the National Security Act, this article begins that discussion. Approaching it from a theological position is based on an awareness of universal human rights that can no longer be avoided as a theological task today. After articulating that position, this article briefly reaffirms the problems with the National Security Act and addresses the issues of the rule of law and human dignity.
I. Opening remarks
II. Universal Human Rights and Christian Theology
III. National Security Act violate universal human rights
IV. The rule of law and human dignity
V. Closing remarks