(ATTN: INCORPORATES story slugged S Korea-NK-leaflets; CHANGES headline)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, June 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea called Thursday for a halt to a civic campaign to send anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into North Korea, hours after the communist nation threatened to scrap a military tension reduction agreement and exchange projects unless Seoul stops the campaign.
The unification ministry also said it is planning to legislate a ban on such "tension-causing acts," arguing that the campaign causes danger to the lives and property of residents in border regions where the leaflets are sent via giant balloons.
"Actually, most of the leaflets have been found in our territory, causing environmental pollution and increasing burden on local people to get rid of them. ... Any act that could pose a threat to the life and property of those people should be stopped," ministry spokesperson Yoh Sang-key said.
"Taking into consideration relevant circumstances comprehensively, the government has already been mulling measures to fundamentally prevent such tension-causing acts near the border," he said.
Earlier in the day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, issued a strongly worded statement condemning the leaflet campaign, saying good faith and reconciliation can never go together with such hostile activities.
"Clearly speaking, the South Korean authorities will be forced to pay a dear price if they let this situation go on while making sort of excuses," she said in the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
"If they fail to take corresponding steps for the senseless act against the fellow countrymen, they had better get themselves ready for possibility of the complete withdrawal of the already desolate Kaesong Industrial Park following the stop to tour of Mt. Kumgang, or shutdown of the North-South joint liaison office whose existence only adds to trouble, or the scrapping of the north-south agreement in military field which is hardly of any value," she added.
Kim also said the summit agreements in 2018 and the military deal intended to stop all kinds of hostility and tension-raising action and the sending of anti-North Korea leaflets runs counter to such agreements.
She pointed her finger directly at the anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border earlier this week by a group of North Korean defectors. The leaflets, totaling about 500,000 and carried by balloons, criticized the North's leader for threatening to take "shocking actual action with a new strategic nuclear weapon."
The leader's sister also called those defectors "human scum" and "rubbish-like mongrel dogs," urging South Korea to take every possible action, including enacting a law against such act without using "freedom of expression" as an excuse anymore.
"If they truly value the North-South agreements and have a will to thoroughly implement them, they should clear their house of rubbish, before thoughtlessly blowing the 'supporting' bugle," she said.
"Before making lame excuses, they should at least make a law to stop the farce of human scum to take thoroughgoing preventive measures against any inglorious things," she added.
North Korea has strongly bristled at anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border, regarding them as a serious hostile act aimed at undermining the authority of its leaders.
South Korea's government has advised against sending such leaflets, citing concerns about the safety of residents in the regions where the leaflet-carrying balloons are launched because the North could take retaliatory military action on the areas.
Defector groups and anti-North Korea civic organizations have often ignored such an appeal, citing their right to freedom of expression. Under the current law, it is also impossible to ban the leaflet campaign.
The latest strongly worded statement came as inter-Korean relations have been stalled amid a stalemate in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington since the no-deal summit in February last year between the North's leader and U.S. President Donald Trump.
In October last year, North Korea demanded Seoul withdraw all its facilities built at the Mount Kumgang resort on the east coast, saying it will build its own international tourist zone there. South Korea shuttered the joint tour project in 2008 after one of its tourist was killed by a North Korean guard.
South Korea closed the joint industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong in 2016 after Pyongyang's nuclear and missile provocations. The two Koreas agreed to resume the mountain tours and the industrial park, two major cross-border exchange projects, when things are met in their 2018 summits, but little progress has been made due to global sanctions.
Earlier this year, the two Koreas also temporarily shut down a liaison office in Kaesong due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Thursday's statement marked the third of its kind issued by Kim Yo-jong this year, pointing to her growing involvement and influence in relations with South Korea and the U.S. as the closet aide to her brother, experts said.
In her first-ever official statement in early March, Kim strongly slamming South Korea's presidential office for complaining about the North's short-range projectile launches, claiming they were just an act of self-defense.
Weeks later, she also issued a statement, saying U.S. President Donald Trump had sent a letter to leader Kim and offered assistance for the North's efforts to fend off the coronavirus but cautioned against misjudging the two countries' ties based only on the personal relations of the two leaders.
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