S. Korean activist arrested over altar for Kim

SEOUL - A South Korean activist was arrested Wednesday for trying to set up an altar to mourn North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il after his death in December, police said.

The 53-year-old pro-reunification activist identified only as Yoon is also accused of producing and distributing pro-Pyongyang leaflets and uploading writing praising the communist North, they said.

The South's tough National Security Law bans South Koreans from praising or supporting the North. The two nations have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended only with an armistice.

A court which issued the arrest warrant for Yoon rejected a similar application to arrest a fellow activist, saying his offence was not grave enough to warrant incarceration.

Kim Jong-Il died of a heart attack on December 17.

Later that month police cordoned off a site near Seoul city hall and turned away a group which tried to display his photo and flowers on a makeshift altar.

"All South Korean compatriots should surely offer deepest sympathy and condolences for the late Kim Jong-Il as partners for eventual reunification," the activist group said in a statement at the time.

The Seoul government expressed its sympathies to the North Korean people but not to the regime for the death. It allowed only two leading South Korean figures to pay condolence visits to Pyongyang.

The North has harshly criticised what it calls the disrespectful response by the South's government to the mourning period.

Rights group Amnesty International last week criticised Seoul authorities for what it termed an excessive use of the security law, saying it has a "chilling effect" on freedom of expression.