Seoul to deport author for 'praising' North Korea

A Korean-American woman is set to be deported from South Korea on Saturday after being accused of praising the North in a recent lecture - including its beer. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A Korean-American woman is set to be deported from South Korea on Saturday after being accused of praising the North in a recent lecture - including its beer. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - A Korean-American woman is set to be deported from South Korea on Saturday after being accused of praising the North in a recent lecture - including its beer.

Shin Eun Mi, 54, said she is being forced to leave because of supposedly pro-Pyongyang comments she made at a lecture in November, which violate South Korea's National Security Law.

"I feel as if I were betrayed by my lover," the 54-year-old told journalists after she emerged from questioning at the Korea Immigration Service in Seoul.

"They can deport my body but they cannot deport my mind loving this country," she said.

"Wherever I may exist, I will continue praying for peace and reunification of the fatherland."

Shin incurred the wrath of Seoul when she said many North Koreans in South Korea want to return home because of frustration with their lives in the South, and that they are hopeful that young leader Kim Jong Un will improve life in the hermit state.

She also praised the North's beer, which she said was better than the South's "tasteless" brews.

South and North Korea remain technically at war after a Cold War-era confrontation and relations between the neighbours have worsened as the conservatives have held sway in Seoul.

Comments seen as overtly complementary of communist North Korea can be punished by up to seven years in prison in the South.

Shin has documented several of her trips to North Korea in articles for online media and a book, which made a 2013 list publications recommended by the South Korean government.

But it was later dropped in the face of public uproar and she was accused of harming national security and the public interest by prosecutors.

Conservatives accused her of turning a blind eye to North Korea's abysmal human rights conditions and having fallen for the Stalinist state's Potemkin Village images.

But liberals say the conservative government of Park Geun Hye, daughter of authoritarian late president Park Chung Hee, is clamping down on freedom of speech.