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Ministry says ban on anti-Pyongyang leaflets 'least possible measure' to protect people in border regions

All News 14:54 December 14, 2020

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- Prohibiting the flying of anti-North Korea leaflets is the "least possible measure" to protect the safety of people living in border regions, the unification ministry said Monday, after a U.S. congressman criticized the envisioned ban for violating civil liberties.

The ruling Democratic Party, which commands a majority in the National Assembly, has been pushing to legislate a ban on sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North with a relevant revision bill up for a vote for approval.

The opposition party lawmakers have been blocking its passage through filibustering.

On Friday, U.S. House Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) issued a statement and expressed "serious concern" over the matter, saying that the envisioned legislation is tantamount to disregarding "fundamental civil liberties" and "acquiescence to Communist North."

"It is the least possible measure to protect the lives and safety of people living in border areas," a unification ministry official told reporters in answering a question seeking a response to the U.S. congressman's statement.

The official still noted that the government continues to respect human rights as a "non-negotiable" value.

The government and the ruling party have been seeking to ban the sending of propaganda leaflets after North Korea bristled at such activity and even blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in June in anger.

The government has also advised against sending such leaflets, citing concerns about the safety of residents in border areas where leaflet-carrying balloons are launched because the North could take retaliatory military action in the areas.

Pyongyang has denounced the leafleting as a violation of inter-Korean agreements and demanded that Seoul take preventive measures.

Critics have criticized such a ban for caving to Pyongyang's pressure, violating the right to the freedom of speech, and blocking information from the people living in the reclusive and oppressive country.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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