Kowtowing to Kim

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Kowtowing to Kim

A ludicrous farce is being played out again on the security front. Shortly after Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, criticized South Korea for allowing a group of North Korean defectors to dispatch balloons carrying propaganda leaflets across the border, our Ministry of Unification said it is preparing a bill banning the practice. The Blue House immediately threatened to strictly punish “an act of damaging our security” because “it does not help achieve peace.” Such submissive attitudes to Kim Yo-jong’s threats are the same as kowtowing.
 
The Moon Jae-in administration must be worried about North Korea threatening to scrap the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. But launching balloons across the border is included under the Constitutional right to freedom of speech. If the government attempts to legislate a ban on propaganda balloons, it will face resistance from the opposition, as seen in 2018 when a bill calling for approval from the unification minister before dispatching leaflets to North Korea was eventually defeated. If the ruling Democratic Party wants to push such a bill by using its  super majority of 177 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, it will lead to an unprecedented battle in the legislature.
 
The government claims that the leaflets do more harm than good. However, a direct demand for them to be stopped by Kim Yo-jong, arguably the second most powerful person in North Korea, suggests the palpable threat the leaflets pose to the regime. The Rodong Shinmun’s running of Kim’s statement hints at the possibility of the leaflets having been seen by a number of North Koreans.
 
The Moon administration is under attack for a supine attitude. When South Korea raised complaints about North Korea’s firing drill on an island on the maritime border in the West Sea and about its recent shooting at our guard post on the DMZ, North Korea kept mum. The Moon administration chose to turn a blind eye to such provocations from North Korea.
 
The propaganda leaflets were a dilemma for conservative administrations, too. When a North Korean defectors group dispatched balloons across the border, North Korea fired at them. As tension deepened, our police blocked groups from sending balloons and government officials met with a North Korean defectors group to discourage them. After the group sued, a court ruled in favor of the defendant — with the statement that the government in principle cannot prohibit the group from sending balloons as it pertains to the realm of Constitutional rights. Therefore, the government must try to restrain the group from dispatching leaflets based on existing laws rather than enacting a new law. 

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