Moon pulls plugs on leaflets after North squawks
“Activities that risk lives and properties of the residents of border areas must be stopped,” Yoh Sang-key, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry, said in a press briefing Thursday morning. “The government has been paying attention to some occasions in which distribution of anti-North propaganda leaflets raised tension in the border regions and took measures to halt the activities.”
Yoh said the government is working on a bill to ban the leaflet distribution. “We are already considering a plan to effectively ease tensions in the border regions,” he said. “We are preparing to make legal updates to this end. A bill will likely be proposed by the government.”
The Unification Ministry’s response was announced just four hours after Kim Yo-jong, whose title is first deputy director of the Workers’ Party of the North, released a statement protesting the leaflets.
On May 31, Fighters for a Free North Korea, a civic group run by North Korean defectors, dispatched 500,000 leaflets criticizing Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threats, 50 books, 2,000 $1 bills and 1,000 computer memory cards via balloons across the border. On April 30, the group also sent leaflets, announcing that two defectors, including former diplomat Thae Yong-ho, were elected lawmakers in South Korea's April 15 general elections.
Stressing that Moon agreed with her brother in 2018 at their Panmunjeom summit to stop all hostile acts near the military demarcation line including the leaflet dispatches, Kim threatened to scrap a military agreement signed at the summit if activists continue sending leaflets.
She also threatened to permanently scrap the suspended Mount Kumgang tour program, completely demolish the Kaesong Industrial Complex or shut down an inter-Korean liaison office if the South failed to accede to her demand.
The Blue House on Thursday criticized the leaflet dispatches. “It is an activity that does more harm than good,” said a senior presidential official. “The government will sternly counter any action that threatens national security.”
He, however, was tight-lipped about Kim’s threat to wreck the inter-Korean military agreement. “The Unification Ministry has announced its stance, so the Blue House won’t comment on her statement,” he said.
Sources informed about North Korea affairs said Thursday that Pyongyang’s complaint and Seoul’s quick response hint at a possible resumption of inter-Korean talks.
“Did Kim, the closest confident of North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un, really want to complain about the petty matter of anti-North propaganda leaflets?” Rep. Kim Hong-gul of the ruling Democratic Party said in a Facebook message. “Due to the coronavirus outbreaks, the North is experiencing a crisis, but it cannot overtly propose to resume exchanges with the South because it needs to save face.
“Instead of looking at the North’s threats , you have to pay attention to the hidden message,” Kim, the youngest son of the late President Kim Dae-jung, said. “The latest statement is not a threat, but a signal that they want to resume talks, if we give them a promising response.”
Another North Korea expert, former Rep. Park Jie-won, said Thursday that the North is sending a signal to the South to resume talks.
“It should be interpreted as a message that the North will respond if the South stops leaflet distribution and takes more actions such as resuming the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” Park said in a TBS radio interview.
BY SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]