U.S. Rights Groups Condemn Hounding of Balloon Activists

  • By Roh Suk-jo

    June 12, 2020 12:07

    International condemnation is growing of South Korea's attempts to crack down on activists sending propaganda leaflets across the border into North Korea.

    There has been a flurry of criticism even from hitherto friendly Americans who now worry that freedoms are being trampled on in kowtowing to North Korean histrionics whose purpose is not even clear.

    Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said in a statement Thursday that South Korea's attempts to revoke the charitable status of activists and prosecute them are a blow to efforts to hold North Korea accountable for its human rights violations for the sake of political expediency.

    The moves are "a blatant violation of freedom of association that cannot be justified with vague appeals to border security and relations with the North," he added.

    Human Rights Watch headquarters said it was "shameful how President [Moon Jae-in] and his government are totally unwilling to stand up for the rights of North Koreans."


    Joshua Stanton, a North Korea expert, on Thursday wondered on Twitter how North Korea's "censor-in-chief" -- leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong -- can order the South Korean government to stop floating leaflets.

    Jenny Town, a fellow at the Stimson Center, also condemned the government's hasty reaction to the "ultimatum" from the North.

    Carl Gershman, the president of the U.S.' National Endowment for Democracy, told Radio Free Asia that nothing is more important than providing North Koreans with outside information, joking that the leaflets and USB sticks activists attach to the balloons are in the long term a contribution to inter-Korean cooperation.

    And Greg Scarlatoiu, the executive director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, called the South Korean government's latest measure a "disaster."

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