Kim Chi Ha, internationally known as a dissident poet and critic of President Park Chung Hee was sentenced to seven years in prison today for writings judged to be violation of the country's anti-Communist law.
Already serving a life sentence for alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow Sout Korea's strongman ruler, Kim, 35, has been on trial in the Seoul district court for nine months on the new charges.
Clad in a white, quilted jacket and traditional Korean trousers, he stood throughout the brief 10 minute hearing in a drafty, low-ceilinged court-room crammed with approximately 120 relatives and supporters.
President Judge Shim Hoon Jung said Kim's writings in a newspaper article and notes and memos assembled for two works in progress proved that he was helping and encouraging North Korea. Kim appeared in good health and spirits. He waved to his wife and mother and grinned jauntily as marshals hustled him away.
Some in Seoul regard the writer as a classic prisoner of conscience. Since 1965 his savagely satirical poems lampooning corruption and social inequity in South Korea have repeatedly landed him hehind bars. In 1974, he published one of his best-known works "Cry of the People," and was arrested, tried by a military court and sentenced to death.
After an international outcry, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and in February 1975, Kim was released by President Park in a political prisoner amnesty.
Within a month he was arrested again. The weapon with which he challenged and infuriated the Park regime was again his pen. In the national newspaper Dong-A Ilbo, Kim accused the government of concoting a fictitious plot as the pretext for unjustly executing seven men and imprisoning another 15 - all members of the People's Revolutionary Party.
The prosecutors asked for a 10-year sentence, claiming Kim was a Maoist Communist inflitrating the Catholic church with the dream of communizing South Korea.
Kim dismissed the accusation that he was a Communist as "nonsense" and the trial became a seemingly endless theosophical wrangle as he argued his faith as a Catholic activist and believer the support of many Korean Kim Soo Hwan, who attended the sentencing today. The trial was delayed in the fall when Kin unsuccessfully appealed for a new panel of judges.
At one hearing, Kim said government investigators promised to set him free if he agreed not to add to his list of 12 banned and critical poems. He declared he would write and fight on until President Park's rule ended.
Kim's stubborn convictions - colliding head-on with the government's belief that any criticism endangers the internal order of South Korea - are felt to hold the key to the peculiar preceedings that ended today.
"He's a dangerous man to the status quo and he seems to be a guy without fear," commented an American analyst. "They just feel they have to keep him locked up."
Defense Lawyer Hong Sung Wu said that the trial was fair in so far as it allowed Kim to explore and expound his personal philosophy, but that it ended with a politically influenced verdict. "We are sure that Poet Kim is innocent," Hong said and added that an appeal to the supreme court was planned.
The poet's sharp-spoken mother told reporters in a courthouse corridor that she hoped President-elect Carter could help free her son. While friends tried to stop her for her won safety, Chung Kuum Sung shouted, "He is in prison because of Mr. Park's dictatorial government."
In and out of jail, Kim has been a thorn in the government's side, and a symbol of resistance. After his arrest last year the Korean Central Intelligence Agency distributed a report saying that Kim "confessed" to being a Communist. Then in the summer, he smuggled out of jail a "declaration of conscience", - an 8,000-word tract in which he disavowed the confession and claimed it was extracted under duress. Several students and at least one priest are serving prison sentences for distributing copies of the declaration.
A series of trial verdicts this week.
Thursday, four Protestant ministers charged at Kwangju, south of SeoulL, with supporting the 18 dissident's protest and adding their own plea for recall of President Park's "Yushin" constitution, were sentenced. Cho Hong Nae, 48, and Kim Kee Jun, 61, were given 6-uear terms. Their two colleagues, Kang Shin Sok and Yun Kee Sok, drew five-year terms, have underlined the Seoul government's continuing hard line on national security and domestic dissent.
On Tuesday the supreme court confirmed a death sentence on theological student Kim Chol Hyon, a Korean resident of Japan who admitted syping for North Korea. Japan-based agitation against his conviction has faded since Kim confirmed the prosecution charges. Three other students who met and allegedly helped him at the Presbyterian Hankuk Seminary in Seoul received sentences of from 2 to 10 years today.
On Wednesday, the Seoul court of appeals freed two of 18 Christian dissidents but sentenced opposition leader Kim Dae Jung and 16 others to up to five years in prison for publishing a democracy manifesto.