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Unification ministry to brief U.N. rapporteur on decision to probe activist groups over anti-N.K. leafleting

All News 08:56 July 29, 2020

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- Unification ministry officials will hold a video meeting with the United Nations special rapporteur on North Korea's human rights this week to explain the ministry's recent decision to probe activist groups over campaigns to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the communist nation, an official said Wednesday.

The meeting with Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana, set for Thursday, comes after the ministry said it would inspect dozens of activist groups, including those run by North Korean defectors, to see if they are operating in accordance with their declared business purposes.

The probe is a follow-up on the ministry's earlier move to revoke the licenses for two defector groups accused of sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets in defiance of the government's repeated calls against such activity.

Activist groups and human rights groups have protested those measures, saying they are infringing upon their rights to freedom of speech. The special rapporteur has also reportedly expressed concerns about the inspection.

The sending of leaflets has emerged as a major source of cross-border tensions since Pyongyang called it a violation of an inter-Korean summit agreement and threatened to take a series of retaliatory steps against South Korea if it did not stop such activity.

North Korea also called South Korea an "enemy" and blew up a joint liaison office in its border town of Kaesong in anger over the leafleting issue last month.

South Korea has advised those groups against sending leaflets to the North, saying it could heighten tensions and put the lives of residents in border areas at risk. Activist groups have claimed that leafleting is aimed at providing information on the outside world to people suffering in the isolated country.

North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, the head of Fighters for a Free North Korea, gets in a vehicle in front of the group's office in Seoul on June 26, 2020, after police completed their search and seizure at the office as part of their probe into the group's anti-Pyongyang leafleting campaign. (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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