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Seoul to curb sending anti-N. Korean leaflets

Posted January. 09, 2015 07:10,   


The South Korean government and political circles are seeking public discussions over ways to have civic activist groups refrain from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to North Korea as part of efforts to pave ways for resuming inter-Korean talks.

The National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, for the first time on Thursday, passed a resolution urging the South Korean administration to take “necessary measures” to prevent the leaflet scattering from undermining the inter-Korean relations and jeopardizing the safety of South Korean residents living near the Military Demarcation Line.

“We will take pre-emptive measures to prevent civic groups from flying (anti-North) leaflets,” a Seoul official said, adding that the measures would be taken “in different manners from previous ones.” The remark suggests that Seoul will prevent civic groups from sending the leaflets to the North.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told the parliamentary committee that he respected the judiciary’s ruling (that it was legitimate for the government to curb the scattering of anti-North leaflets) and the National Assembly’s resolution. “The (South Korean) government will take proper actions, if necessary, regarding the spread of anti-North Korean leaflets jeopardizing South Koreans’ safety and cause internal conflicts.” Although he noted that there was no change in Seoul’s position that the leaflet scattering did not have much to do with improving the inter-Korean relations, the minister did not repeat its usual emphasis on “freedom of expression.” The remarks indicate that while the South Korean government will actively prevent civic groups from sending leaflets to the North, it does not mean Seoul is clinging to holding inter-Korean talks or accepting Pyongyang’s demand for a halt to the leaflet scattering.

In a meeting with reporters on Thursday, a Unification Ministry official unusually disclosed the content of a North Korean radio program that threatened to murder Park Sang-hak, the leader of the Fighters for Free North Korea, a South Korean activist group for North Korean human rights, who said the group would send DVDs containing the Hollywood film “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “If Park openly flies the DVD to the North, it will be highly likely that his personal safety will be threatened, the (South Korean) government will take safety measures,” the official noted. “As a result, he will not be able to send the DVDs to the North.”

In a telephone conversation with the Dong-A Ilbo, Park said, “I am willing to refrain (from sending the leaflets ) if Seoul makes an official request because of inter-Korean talks, not because of threats to my personal safety.” A Seoul official said that it was difficult for Seoul to make such an official request under the excuse of inter-Korean talks because any such move could undermine Seoul’s basic position that the anti-North leaflets had nothing to do with the inter-Korean relations.

Meanwhile, Seoul urged Pyongyang to “come to the negotiating table as soon as possible to develop the inter-Korean relations” rather than reiterating its claims that did not help improve the bilateral relations. The statement came after a spokesman for the North’s National Defense Commission urged Seoul to stop dispersing anti-Pyongyang leaflets in the North.