Amid thaw in ties, more leaflets sent across border

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Amid thaw in ties, more leaflets sent across border

A defector organization in South Korea floated more than half a million anti-Pyongyang leaflets in balloons across the inter-Korea border, the first batch of the new year, without notifying officials first.

The move comes at delicate time between the two Koreas, which are considering a high-level dialogue, particularly because the propaganda leaflets have long been a point of contention between the North and the South.

On Monday evening, the defector-led civic organization Campaign for Helping North Koreans in a Direct Way flew some 600,000 leaflets in balloons from Yeoncheon County, which borders North Korea, Gyeonggi police said.

In response, the South Korean government reiterated its stance that there were no legal grounds to prevent the civic groups from dispatching the propaganda leaflets to the North because of their right to freedom of speech.

An official from the Ministry of Unification said on Tuesday that it only learned about the incident after it happened, and that it has little means to mandate a civic organization to report its activities to officials before flying the balloons or prevent them from doing so.

However, the official added that the civil organization would do well to notify authorities before sending material across the border.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s address that he is open to a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, which follows Seoul’s proposal for minister-level talks with the North, leading to hopes of easing of inter-Korea relations at the beginning of 2015.

Pyongyang in the past has warned against the flying of such propaganda, and both sides have exchanged machine-gun fire over the release of such material, disseminated by civic groups in the South.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee passed a resolution calling for governmental regulation over civic organizations that release leaflets that strongly criticize or slander the North Korean regime.

The resolution reconfirmed with the National Assembly “the need for mutual recognition and respect for each other to build trust, the basis of a North-South relationship.”

It also pointed out that “disseminating leaflets of that nature is damaging to the improvement of inter-Korean relations and endangers the safety of the people.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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