July 16, 2020 13:38
The government is threatening to look into the activities of all North Korean defector groups registered with the Unification Ministry, according to sources on Wednesday.
The measure comes after it filed a police complaint against two defector groups and took steps to revoke their charitable status for sending propaganda flyers across the border. The North Korean regime flew into a rage over the flyering campaign and blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong.
One of the two is Fighters for a Free North Korea led by Park Sang-hak, the most prominent leaflet campaigner. The government accuses it of "inciting cross-border tensions" and violating security laws.
A source said that the ministry recently notified registered defector groups that it will visit them next month to inspect if they are operating according to their stated purposes.
The ministry claimed this is an "across-the-board inspection of all registered organizations," which number over 400.
Defectors were dumbfounded. Seo Jae-pyong, the director of an activist group in Seoul, said, "This the first time that I've ever heard of such an inspection since I began working here 11 years ago."
If their charitable status is revoked, activists will have difficulty collecting donations because that will make them unable to open bank accounts in the name of their organizations and provide tax benefits for their donors.
"We could understand it if it was a regular audit. But they've never done this before," another activist said. "It seems that they're attempting to cut off all sources of funding for defector groups that float leaflets across the border."
A ministry official admitted that this is not a regular audit but claimed defector groups "aren't the only targets."
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