While Kim Yo Jong, the first deputy director of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, accused the dissemination of leaflets by a South Korean civic group of being an act of hostility and a breach of the September 19 inter-Korean military pact. The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, however, failed to mention the specific clause of such breach.
Experts and military officials in Seoul speculate that the clause on the buffer zone in the air could apply here. In fact, the September 19 military agreement designated certain areas – including the MDL, NLL, and other points of contact – as “buffer zones” to prevent all types of hostilities in the land, sea and air. The clause bans the flight of any air vehicle within the 25-kilometer buffer zones either South or North of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). Rotorcraft (helicopters) cannot enter the 10-kilometer zone either South or North of the demarcation line, and for unmanned vehicles, the buffer zone stretches 15 kilometers east and 10 kilometers west.
Some say that it is based on this buffer zone clause that Pyongyang argues sending balloons with leaflets criticizing the North Korean leadership near the ceasefire line is in violation of the military agreement between the two Koreas. But a popular view holds that the clause cannot be applied to civic groups as the military agreement was reached between the authorities in Seoul and Pyongyang, not private entities.
“Even if the military pact has effectiveness as powerful as international law, local law including the constitution is prioritized when it comes to North Korean issues,” said a South Korean military official. “There is no basis to consider the leaflets-sending to North Korea as violation of any law, be it the positive law or the military agreement.” In fact, whenever Pyongyang took issues with the balloon sending from Seoul, the South Korean government stressed the importance of recognizing the difference of systems and only requested refrainment from the civic groups concerned.
Others say that Kim Yo Jong’s bluster is a strategic one-upmanship as the hostilities defined under the agreement should be limited to military purpose and use.
Sang-Ho Yun firstname.lastname@example.org