Gov't Hires U.S. Lobbyists to Defend Controversial Leaflet Ban

  • By Kim Eun-joong

    January 28, 2021 12:02

    The government has hired heavyweight U.S. lobbyists to defend its widely condemned ban on sending propaganda leaflets to North Korea.

    The Joe Biden administration has started a comprehensive review of Asia policy, and the government here is afraid that the leaflet ban, which has been slammed as an infringement of free speech, will come under scrutiny.

    A U.S. congressional hearing on human rights violations under the ban is also in the offing.

    Ed Royce (left) and Mark Begich

    According to the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday, the South Korean Embassy in Washington hired Denver, Colorado-based lobbying and law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.

    The firm's advisors include former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and former Democratic senator Mark Begich. Royce and Begich will be paid US$30,000 a month until June to lobby on behalf of the South Korean government.

    The Trump administration's State Department had already criticized the ban indirectly by reminding Seoul of its obligation to respect free expression, while the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives has given notice of a hearing on the matter.

    After Republican hawks in the House like Michael McCaul and Christopher Smith voiced concerns over the ban, the South Korean government launched a full-court press to block them.

    Moon supporters in the U.S. have rallied around the embassy in Washington to defend the ban against American politicians.

    Royce is a well-known pro-Korean politician with extensive connections after serving 26 years as a representative. Begich has access to both Congress and the White House after serving as a senator when Biden was vice president.

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