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Unification ministry denies probe into civic groups targets N.K. defectors

All News 11:38 August 03, 2020

SEOUL, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry denied speculation Monday that an upcoming probe into civic groups is intended to target North Korean defector organizations after revoking the licenses of two such entities over their sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

The ministry earlier said that it plans to begin inspecting 25 civic groups registered with the ministry, including 13 organizations run by North Korean defectors, in mid-August to see if they are operating according to their declared business purposes.

"The standard by which we chose the 25 groups is based on their annual performance reports," Yoh Sang-key, the ministry's spokesperson, told a regular press briefing in response to a question as to whether the probe was intended to target defector groups.

"We chose the groups whose performances had been poor or which had not submitted required materials," he said.

The remarks came amid speculation that the planned probe is targeting North Korean defectors after cross-border tensions spiked over the sending of leaflets by activists in South Korea to the North.

Pyongyang blew up a liaison office in its border town of Kaesong in June in anger over the leafleting, calling it a violation of inter-Korean agreements.

South Korea has promised to seek measures to block such activity, including through legislation. The ministry recently canceled the licenses of two defector groups for engaging in such activity.

Last week, U.N. Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana held a cyber meeting with ministry officials and asked the planned probe to be carried out in a way that does not undermine their efforts to improve the North's human rights situation.

Members of Fighters for Free North Korea, an organization of defectors from North Korea, send balloons carrying anti-North leaflets across the border from the South Korean border city of Paju, in this file photo dated April 2, 2016. On June 4, 2020, South Korea called for a halt to a civic campaign to send anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into North Korea, hours after the North threatened to scrap a military tension reduction agreement and exchange projects unless Seoul stops the campaign. (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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