August 06, 2020 13:41
The government is pushing to punish anyone who sends propaganda leaflets to North Korea after the North blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong in fury over the flyering campaign.
The government also wants to ban loudspeakers or electronic display devices for propaganda purposes near the demilitarized zone, which until recently was official military policy.
Violators could face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to W30 million for "seriously endangering" cross-border relations (US$1=W1,189).
According to the Unification Ministry, the government has told lawmakers it will accept a bill to that effect tabled by Song Young-gil, the chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
The bill, tabled in June when North Korea's hysteria was at its height, stipulates that any activity including the floating of propaganda leaflets or use of loudspeakers or electronic display devices across the border is a violation of inter-Korean agreements.
The bill was moved to a subcommittee on Monday and will be deliberated for 90 days. But the ruling Minjoo Party has a comfortable majority, and no amount of opposition filibustering could stop it if the ruling party puts its mind to it.
The ruling party has already submitted a revision to the Inter-Korean exchange and cooperation law, which adds propaganda leaflets to a list of items that need government approval when imported from or sent to the North.
The opposition has denounced the move as flying in the face of the spirit of the law, which is intended to regulate friendly exchanges, donations and business.
The government has already revoked the charitable status of two defector groups at the forefront of the leaflet campaign and threatened audits of dozens more civic groups that are critical of North Korea.
The move has drawn condemnation from international human rights groups. It is unclear why the ruling party is pushing ahead with the new legislation now even though there has been no further trouble from North Korea for over a month since leader Kim Jong-un called off a buildup of forces at the border.
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