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Assembly passes bill on banning cross-border launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets

All News 22:19 December 14, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- The National Assembly on Monday passed a controversial bill that prohibits the launching of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border, amid fierce opposition protests.

The revision to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, billed as the anti-leaflet law, outlaws the scattering of leaflets critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un or his political system across the border. A violation could lead to a sentence of up to three years behind bars or a fine of up to 30 million won (US$27,000).

The North has long condemned the launching of such leaflets, and the two Koreas agreed to suspend leafleting and other hostile acts in the border area in the Panmunjom Declaration adopted by their leaders in 2018.

But conservative activist groups primarily led by North Korean defectors here have continued to send such leaflets. In June, the North blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in its border town of Kaesong in anger over the sending of propaganda.

The conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP) protested against the bill, which it said would excessively limit the right to free expression. Leafleting, on the other hand, has been a recurring source of tension between South and North Korea, and it has also caused safety concerns among residents of border towns here.

The bill was passed during the parliament's plenary session in a 187-0 vote, one day after PPP lawmakers staged a filibuster to block its passage.

Authorities retrieve a plastic balloon containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets in the border town of Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, on June 23, 2020, after a defector group launched it northward the previous night. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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