U.S. Experts Slam S.Korea over Treatment of Defectors' Groups

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    July 20, 2020 12:21

    U.S. experts and activists on North Korea have criticized South Korea's decision to clamp down on North Korean defectors' groups for agitating Pyongyang by sending propaganda leaflets across the border.

    Robert King, former U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, told Voice of America on Saturday, "The problem with the South Korean government's decision to ban balloons is that it came after a particularly vicious blast from Kim Yo-jong. The South Korean government's quick announcement that it was banning fliers on balloons looks like South Korea simply buckling under to a North Korean demand."

    "It does not position the South Korean government to deal effectively with the North by responding in such a servile and obsequious way."

    On June 4, Kim Yo-jong issued a hysterically worded statement demanding that the South Korean government ban the dissemination of propaganda leaflets across the border. Just four hours later, the Unification Ministry promised to ban the campaign and last week revoked the charitable status of two defectors groups, Fighters for a Free North Korea and Kuensaem, which are at the forefront of the flyering campaign.

    Greg Scarlatoiu of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea told VOA, "This is a catastrophic decision. It is also clear indication that the current [South Korean] government is suppressing the voices of former North Korean activists critical of the Kim regime in order to appease the North Korean leadership."

    "For over two decades… we have been praising South Korea as an economic powerhouse and, most importantly, a democracy that has been a role model for others in the region and beyond," he added. "The crackdown on activists and organizations critical of Kim Jong-un raises a serious question: Is South Korea still the democracy we used to know?"

    Lee Sung-yoon at Tufts University called the measure a "national disgrace."

    Suzanne Scholte of the North Korea Freedom Coalition said the latest measure by the South is "terrible" and the Moon Jae-in administration appears once again to be more concerned about the North Korean regime "than the Korean people -- north or south." 

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