Int'l pressure intensifying on anti     DATE: 2024-07-15 15:45:09

Activists prepare to send anti-Kim Jong-un regime propaganda leaflets to North Korea from the border city of Paju,<strong></strong> Gyeonggi Province, in this photo from April 2, 2016. Yonhap
Activists prepare to send anti-Kim Jong-un regime propaganda leaflets to North Korea from the border city of Paju, Gyeonggi Province, in this photo from April 2, 2016. Yonhap

By Jung Da-min

The international community's move against South Korea's ban on sending anti-Kim Jong-un regime propaganda leaflets to North Korea is intensifying. Since the National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), passed a bill to implement the ban last December, criticism has continued to grow internationally that the law undermines freedom of speech, with members of the U.K. Parliament and the U.S. Congress raising the issue and planning to hold a debate and hearing session, respectively.

The DPK passed the law claiming it is needed to protect the lives of South Koreans living in the border region, although critics claim it is caving into North Korea's demands in the hope of keeping bilateral relations alive.

Rep. Tae Yong-ho and Rep. Ji Seong-ho, defectors-turned-lawmakers with the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) and members of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, are planning to attend an online seminar to discuss the situation with members of the U.K.'s All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, or APPG NK, scheduled for Feb. 3, according to Tae's office.

Gyeonggi Governor asks US Congress, UN to support anti-leafleting law Gyeonggi Governor asks US Congress, UN to support anti-leafleting law 2021-01-31 09:41  |  Foreign Affairs
Last month, Tae and David Alton, a member of the House of Lords, together with other politicians and activists, sent a letter to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to express concerns over the law, which Alton called a "gag law" in the letter.

In response to the letter, Nigel Adams, the British Minister for Asia at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, sent a letter earlier this month in which he said his office has discussed the scope of the law with the South Korean government, and will continue to take a close interest in its implementation, according to a report by the U.S.-based RFA, which cited Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

"We are committed to improving human rights in North Korea, and improved freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and increased access to information by North Korean citizens are fundamental to these efforts," read Adams' letter carried in the RFA report. Scarlatoiu told the RFA that Adams' message was a clear support for freedom of expression. "The European Union and the United Kingdom have stood firmly by the human rights of the people of North Korea, in particular the freedom of information and the freedom of access to information," Scarlatoiu said.

Meanwhile, another RFA report on Thursday said that the office of Chris Smith, a veteran Republican Congressman who co-chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives, told the outlet that it would push ahead with a plan to hold a hearing on the controversial law in late February or early March, after the commission completes appointments of its new members, which is expected to take place in the next four to six weeks.

Park Sang-hak, a vocal North Korean defector activist in the South who runs a civic group named Fighters for a Free North Korea, left for Washington, D.C., Wednesday, to attend the hearing that Smith is seeking to convene, according to Lee Heon, a lawyer serving as Park's legal representative.

Park had earlier filed a constitutional complaint against the ban in late December, saying it undermines political freedom of expression that should be guaranteed by the Constitution.

The South Korean government and the ruling DPK have so far remained firm on the law banning the sending of propaganda leaflets to the North, saying it is necessary to maintain the safety of residents in border areas, whose lives are put in danger, as the North could even use weapons, such as firing anti-aircraft guns, to stop balloons carrying such leaflets.