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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 23)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:13 June 23, 2020

Drop leafleting threat
North should honor inter-Korean agreement

North Korea has rejected Seoul's request to drop its threat to send propaganda leaflets across the border into South Korea. On Saturday, Pyongyang vowed to make good on the threat in retaliation to anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent into the North by North Korean defectors.

The propagation of the leaflets has emerged as a thorny issue which Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, cited as a reason for the cutting off of all communication lines with the South. It also provided Pyongyang with an excuse to demolish the inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Gaeseong, June 16.

It is somewhat understandable that the North has been enraged by the defectors' leaflets aimed at denigrating Kim Jong-un and his regime. Pyongyang argues that Seoul has violated the 2018 inter-Korean summit agreement which calls for both sides to stop sending propaganda leaflets across the border. The Moon Jae-in government invited its criticism for not "cracking down" properly on defectors and other activists sending leaflets into the North.

Seoul, however, has begun to take steps to legislate a ban on all such activities after Pyongyang strongly protested and then conducted provocations against the South this month. The government has also filed a criminal complaint against two defector groups for sending leaflets into the North.

In this regard, Pyongyang needs to recognize Seoul's efforts. One of two groups has agreed to accept the ban on sending the leaflets, although the other has yet to follow suit. The authorities should double down on persuading it to stop flying leaflets into North Korea.

Despite this, Pyongyang shows no sign of backing down. This is evident, considering a report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Saturday. It reads: "Publishing and printing institutions at all levels in the capital city have turned out 12 million leaflets of all kinds reflective of the wrath and hatred of the people from all walks of life." The agency disclosed the leaflets full of derision and insults targeting President Moon Jae-in.

As the South's Ministry of Unification pointed out, the North may risk violating the summit agreement on banning all hostile activities if it turns its threat into action. It is wrong for the North to describe the agreement as a "dead document," rejecting the South's call for restraint.

Regrettably, Pyongyang is trying to escalate tensions on the peninsula with harsher rhetoric and military threats against the South. After blowing up the liaison office, the North sent troops into the Demilitarized Zone, the joint industrial park in Gaeseong, and the Mount Geumgang tourism resort.

The distribution of leaflets is a conventional method of psychological warfare; but it could lead to an actual military clash -- although accidental -- in border areas. Under all circumstances, the two sides should avoid any such clash that might have unpredictable consequences. The North should abide by the inter-Korean agreement to de-escalate tensions, promote reconciliation and move toward peace.

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