Seoul govt defends law criminalizing sending of anti-regime leaflets to the North

Seoul, Dec 15 (efe-epa).- The South Korean government on Tuesday defended parliamentary approval of a law that penalizes the sending of anti-regime leaflets and other items into North Korea, and stressed the need to prevent “provocations” by the Pyongyang regime.

The South Korean parliament approved the controversial law criminalizing the scattering of leaflets by balloon and other modes by groups of activists opposed to the dictatorship of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un late Monday.

The legislation, which has been criticized by human rights groups, establishes that anyone sending such anti-regime leaflets or other items into North Korea without the permission of the government can be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fined up to 30 million won ($27,500).

“Scattering anti-North Korea leaflets infringes upon other people’s right to life, safety and properties by causing North Korean provocations, and undermines national security by heightening inter-Korean tensions,” the South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement sent to media.

The Pyongyang regime has strongly condemned the sending of the leaflets from the South, claiming it violates inter-Korean agreements, and had demanded that the Seoul government take measures to prevent it.

Recently, the non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged against the passing of the law, saying it would only serve to keep the North’s leader Kim Jong-un “happy.”

The law penalizes anyone who sends “promotional pamphlets,” “printed hand-outs,” and “auxiliary storage device” such as USBs, SD cards, and disks, as well as “money or other monetary benefits” into North Korea without the permission of the government, HRW said.

The overly broad language could be interpreted to include food or medicine, the NGO said.

“Many North Korean escapees and South Korean groups routinely send money to relatives and other at-risk people in North Korea, as well as USB and SD cards with digital content containing documentaries or other presentations on life outside North Korea, classes in math or economics, information on current affairs, news, and history. They also send seeds, food, secondhand clothes, and medicine,” the statement said. EFE-EPA


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