Gov't revokes operation permits for 2 defector groups over leafleting

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Gov't revokes operation permits for 2 defector groups over leafleting

The unification ministry revoked the operation permits of two North Korean defector groups Friday, saying their campaigns to send propaganda leaflets into the communist nation "gravely hindered" efforts toward unification.

The move came a month after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in its border city of Kaesong after being angered by leaflets criticizing leader Kim Jong-un, saying the activities violate a series of peace agreements between the two sides.
The decision to revoke the operation permits of the two groups — Fighters for a Free North Korea and Kuensaem — had been widely expected because the ministry said last month it would push for the revocation and filed a criminal complaint with the police against the leaders of the two groups.
"The act of scattering leaflets and goods by these entities ... gravely hindered the government's unification policies and efforts towards unification, jeopardized the lives and safety of residents in border regions and created a tense situation on the Korean Peninsula," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the leafleting campaign goes beyond the intended purpose of the groups' establishments. It also said it comprehensively reviewed various evidence, including statements from the groups, before revoking their permits.
Losing the permits will make it hard for the groups to raise money for their operations and activities, as revocation will make them ineligible for various benefits available to registered organizations.
Legal representatives for the two defector groups said they will seek an injunction on the revocation decision and file an administrative suit against it.
Sending leaflets across the border recently emerged as a major source of cross-border tensions since Pyongyang called it a violation of an inter-Korean summit agreement in 2018 and threatened to take a series of retaliatory steps against South Korea if it did stop such activities. 
The government has advised against sending the leaflets, saying that it not only violates an inter-Korean exchange and cooperation act, but that it also could jeopardize the safety of residents in border areas.
But they have ignored the appeal, citing their right to freedom of expression and emphasizing that their leafleting is aimed at providing information to people in the oppressive North Korean state.
On Thursday, the ministry said it will launch a probe into 25 government-registered civic groups, including 13 organizations consisting of North Korean defectors, later this month to look into whether they are involved in leafleting and other activities running counter to their declared purposes of operation.
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