June 05, 2020 10:06
The South Korean government on Thursday kowtowed to a complaint from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister about propaganda leaflets being floated across the border and tried to ban them.
It took the Unification Ministry less than five hours after the scathing remarks from Kim Yo-jong were published to announce a ban on activists floating balloons with propaganda materials into North Korea.
Cheong Wa Dae and the ministry claimed the propaganda leaflets are "doing more harm than good." The ministry claimed the leaflets were "polluting" the demilitarized zone and making living conditions worse for South Korean residents near that area.
"What I find more detestable are those who feign ignorance or encourage more than those who move to do others harm," Kim was quoted earlier in the day as saying by the North’s official Rodong Sinmun daily. "South Korean authorities should be ready to take care of the consequences of evil conduct done by the rubbish-like mongrel dogs."
She warned of dire consequences if defector groups continue to send propaganda leaflets, threatening to tear up a cross-border military pact signed by the two sides in 2018 that the North has already repeatedly violated.
Yoh Sang-key, a spokesperson for the ministry, said, "Acts that cause harm to the lives and property of our citizens near the border area must be halted. We are already considering measures to ban acts that foment tension along the border."
A high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official said, "We will deal firmly with propaganda leaflets to North Korea." The Defense Ministry also called for a stop.
The problem is that floating balloons across the border is perfectly legal. The government labeled the dissemination of propaganda leaflets "harmful to national security," which could make it a criminal offense, but the grounds are flimsy.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. Park Won-gon at Handong Global University said, "Making a law that bans sending propaganda leaflets to North Korea could violate the spirit of the Constitution, which authorizes freedom of speech, the press, assembly, petition and expression."
On previous occasions when the government wanted to stop the balloon campaign to appease North Korea for certain occasions, it had to negotiate hard with the activist groups and they did not always comply.
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