SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: July 29, 2022

Attack Types: Prosecution

Institution(s):Korea Institute for National Unification

Region & Country:Eastern Asia | South Korea

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 29, 2022, police raided the home of researcher Dae-il Jeong, who studies the North Korean Juche ideology at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

The police conducted a search and seizure of property at Jeong’s residence on charges that he was violating South Korea’s National Security Act (NSA), which prohibits individuals from possessing documents associated with anti-state groups. The police also searched and confiscated Jeong’s cellphone, computers, research materials, and—highlighted in local press coverage—a copy of With the Century (“세기와 더불어”), a memoir written by former North Korean President Kim Il-sung that is considered controversial in South Korea. In May 2021, police raided the offices of one publishing house that printed the memoir, claiming that they had violated the NSA. According to Tong-il News, the police warrant noted allegations that Jeong was in communication with that same publishing house regarding the production of the memoir.

At a press conference, Jeong criticized the police search, stating that “it is natural for researchers to collect research data.” Jeong’s employer also denounced the search, commenting that it violated academic freedom.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a criminal investigation, the search of a scholar’s home, and the confiscation of his property, in connection with the peaceful exercise of academic freedom — conduct that is protected by international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which South is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from coercive legal actions that restrict or punish academic freedom. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.