Despite a ban, North Korean defectors ballooned leaflets, books and dollars through the demilitarized zone.
North Korean defectors twice this week broke a law banning the sending of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets from South Korea, they revealed on Friday. These balloon shipments across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula are the first since the South Korean parliament passed a law in December banning the practice. The group “sent 500,000 leaflets, 500 pounds and 5,000 dollars in cash” using ten balloons, on the occasion of two launches, near the DMZ between April 25 and April 29, “Park said. Sang-hak, president of the Fighters for a Free North Korea, at the origin of these operations.
These leaflets, sent by inflatable balloons in the air or via small floats on rivers across the demilitarized zone, have long been used by militants in the South to denounce the Kim Jong Un regime and to send messages to the inhabitants of the North. . They arouse the anger of Pyongyang, who did not fail to criticize them violently on several occasions last year and, to maintain diplomatic pressure, had suspended a project for a border liaison office. The South Korean Parliament quickly passed a law prohibiting the sending of these leaflets or USB keys, the latter solution being favored for sending external information to a country almost cut off from the world.
Violators face a three-year prison sentence or a fine of 30 million won, approximately 22,300 euros. The law has raised concerns about freedom of expression, and the United States – an ally of South Korea – pointed out that it poses a “significant human rights problem” in a report annual published in March. North Koreans “have the right to know the truth, even if their rights as human beings are violated by the regime,” said Park Sang-hak, criticizing the law which “muzzles” South Koreans.
The two Koreas had agreed to stop these propaganda exchanges – including via powerful loudspeakers – during a first summit between South Korean President Moon and his counterpart in 2018. Activists from the South, mainly led by North Korean defectors, tirelessly continue their activities near the border. The Seoul-based Unification Ministry, in charge of inter-Korean relations, said the law “aims to ensure the safety and lives of people living in border areas.”