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(2nd LD) Police search properties of ex-N.K. defector at center of anti-Pyongyang leafleting

Politics 17:17 June 26, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more info)

SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- Police on Friday searched the car and mobile phone of a former North Korean defector who has been at the center of the anti-Pyongyang leafleting campaign, which the South Korean government views as a breach of law and the North vehemently denounces.

Investigators at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency met with Park Sang-hak, the head of Fighters for a Free North Korea, in Seoul earlier in the day and looked into his vehicle and mobile phone in search of potential evidence, according to the police.

Park's activist group has been leading the campaign to send anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets across the border.

The police were also trying to search the offices of Park's organization in Seoul's Songpa Ward, as well as Kuensaem, another anti-North Korea activist group run by Park's younger brother.

The dispatched police officers were, however, not let into the offices and were on standby in front of them, as the brothers strongly resisted the police's search order.

"The search is part of efforts to seize materials so that we can verify if the Parks' activities are in breach of the law," a police officer said.

Defying the government's warning against cross-border leafleting, Park claimed that activists from his group sent some 500,000 leaflets carried by 20 large helium balloons over to the North on Monday night.

Cheong Wa Dae earlier warned that the government would crack down on such acts, which it said constitute a violation of laws including the inter-Korean exchange and cooperation act.

The campaign to scatter leaflets that criticize the North Korean political system and the North's ruling Kim family has recently been a major source of confrontations between the two Koreas.

Meeting with reporters Friday following the police search, Park vowed to continue his leaflet campaign and demanded the government guarantee his right to free expression.

"As long as (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un's tyranny and political prison camps (in North Korea) continue, I will keep going," Park told reporters.

He also accused the government of "clamping down on nationals' freedom of expression while being submissive to Kim Jong-un and his younger sister Yo-jong."

According to Park's lawyer, the police based the latest search on charges of breaching the law on inter-Korean exchange and collection and use of donations, as well as the high-pressure gas safety control act.

Park Sang-hak, the head of Fighters for a Free North Korea, speaks to reporters on June 25, 2020 in Seoul. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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