U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun reportedly conveyed the Donald Trump administration’s concern about South Korea’s new law to ban sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea during his recent visit to South Korea, it has been reported. The ban is looming as a pending diplomatic issue between Seoul and Washington, with the bipartisan human rights body of the U.S. Congress having decided to hold a hearing on human rights issues including South Korea’s bill penalizing the sending of propaganda leaflets to the North in January next year.
In his op-ed entitled “South Korea’s new anti-leaflet law sparks backlash in Washington” on Thursday, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported on Biegun’s moves, citing various sources. Biegun made a visit to South Korea for three days from December 8 before the controversial law was passed by the South Korean National assembly on Monday. An official in the Trump administration confirmed that Deputy Secretary of State Biegun conveyed Washington’s concern to First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun and Unification Minister Lee In-young. After the bill was passed on Monday, an official in the State Department reportedly said, “South Korea apparently did not pay attention or respond to Deputy Secretary of State Biegun’s advice.”
A Republican member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, told Voice of America on Thursday, “As announced, there will be a hearing on the anti-leaflet law.” The hearing will likely be scheduled in early January when a new congressional session will begin.