U.S. Republican representative Chris Smith, co-chair of the U.S. bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, has criticized the South Korean ruling Democratic Party for passing a bill to ban the launching of propaganda leaflets into North Korea, calling it not liberal but an “illiberal” party. Rep. Smith revealed his plans to discuss the issue at a congressional hearing scheduled for January next year, which is likely to set off a diplomatic row between the two countries.
Rep. Smith told Voice of America on Thursday (local time) that Americans need to know what is happening in South Korea, an ally and a key bilateral partner of the U.S. for 70 years, and asked for attention on the issue from American society. He argued that progressive and liberal left-wing party took power in 2017 and began to curtail the basic civil and political rights of its people, adding the South Korean ruling party is not a liberal party but an “illiberal” party. It is unusual for a U.S. lawmaker to slam a South Korean ruling party.
Rep. Smith said it is wrong to criminalize the acts of sending information about democracy and what he calls “Bible and BTS balloons,” which refer to the materials on religions and Korean pop culture. He also pointed out that the passage of the leaflet ban is the latest example of “intolerance” on civil and political rights by the Moon Jae-in administration and its collaborators. He said those who love freedom all over the world should be surprised by the Moon administration’s acquiescence to Pyongyang’s demand to ban the launching of anti-North Korea leaflets and the hostility shown by the incumbent South Korean administration towards North Korean defectors and human rights activists.
Rep. Smith confirmed that the issue will be discussed at a U.S. congressional hearing next year. He said when the new session begins, he will convene a hearing in order to investigate the ongoing threat by the South Korean government to civil and political rights on the Korean Peninsula. In an email recently sent to Rep. Ji Seong-ho of the South Korean main opposition People Power Party (PPP), Rep. Smith expressed his support for filing a constitutional appeal against the leaflet ban and promised his assistance when necessary.
Ji-Sun Choi firstname.lastname@example.org