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Human rights groups file constitutional complaint over leafleting ban

North Korea 11:05 December 29, 2020

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- Nearly 30 human rights groups in South Korea filed a constitutional complaint Tuesday over a recently legislated ban on sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into North Korea and requested an injunction against the law.

The organizations, including Transitional Justice Working Group and Keunsaem led by North Korean defectors, claimed that the leafleting ban infringes on the human rights of North Koreans and supports the autocratic regime in Pyongyang.

"By using the safety of people in border regions as an excuse, they are giving up on human rights of North Korean people who are thirsty for outside information while supporting the autocratic regime," the human rights groups told reporters.

The National Assembly, controlled by the ruling Democratic Party, recently passed the bill penalizing the sending of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the North despite strong objections by opposition party lawmakers.

Supporters claim the ban is to protect the safety of citizens in border regions from which leaflet-carrying balloons have been sent into the North, while critics say that it violates the right to freedom of expression and blocks outside information from people in the reclusive state.

The government and the ruling party have sought to ban leaflet campaigns after North Korea bristled at such activity and even blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in June in anger. Pyongyang has denounced the leafleting as a violation of inter-Korean agreements and demanded that Seoul take preventive measures.

The unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said that freedom of expression cannot take precedence over the life and safety of people in border regions.

This photo, taken on June 23, 2020, shows a balloon containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets found at a mountain in Hongcheon, a town in South Korea's northeastern province of Gangwon. Tied to the balloon are photos of the North's leader Kim Jong-un, his late grandfather and the North's founder Kim Il-sung and his sister Kim Yo-jong. Fighters for a Free North Korea, a Seoul-based organization of North Korean defectors advocating for North Korean human rights, claimed it sent such balloons toward North Korea from the South Korean border town of Paju, north of Seoul, the previous day. (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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