NATIONAL

S. Korea reviews policy for anti-NK leaflet campaign

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Aug 7, 2017 - 13:24
  • Updated : Aug 7, 2017 - 14:07
South Korea is mulling over measures to handle activists' move to send anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets as the move could spark tensions along the inter-Korean border, officials said Monday.

North Korea is sensitive to North Korean defector-activists' move to send leaflets via balloons on concerns that ordinary North Koreans can get information about the repressive regime. The leaflet campaign is one of the main sources of tension between the two Koreas.

South Korea's unification ministry said that the government reviewed how to handle it as a follow-up to President Moon Jae-in's peace initiative unveiled in Berlin last month.

(Yonhap)

"Sending leaflets near the border could spark unnecessary military tensions, including a possible accidental conflict. It also poses a real threat to the safety of border-area residents," Baek Tai-hyun, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

But the spokesman added that the issue has complexity amid conflicting views that the leaflet campaign is within the realm of freedom of expression, while the move does little good in improving inter-Korean relations.

"We believe that in handling the issue, various factors, including inter-Korean ties and public sentiments, should be taken into account," he added.

President Moon Jae-in ordered government officials to find ways to stop the anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets from being sent, a presidential official said last week.

The government under Moon's predecessor said that the government cannot curb the leaflet launch as it is a matter of freedom of speech but added the move should not pose serious threats to residents living near the border.

In October 2014, the North fired machine guns at balloons launched by activists. Some bullets landed in the South's territory, but no one was hurt.

The two Koreas agreed in June 2004 to end propaganda campaigns, including border broadcasts and sending leaflets, under the liberal government of late former President Roh Moo-hyun. But civic activists kept sending balloons carrying leaflets, inviting North Korea's backlash.

At that time, all Seoul could do was to call on activists to stop their leaflet dispatches, because the government cannot ban such activities, though the move violated the inter-Korean agreement, according to officials. (Yonhap)