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High-profile N. Korean defector leaves for U.S. for congressional hearing on anti-leaflet law

North Korea 15:27 January 28, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- A vocal North Korean defector activist has left for the United States for a congressional hearing on a controversial bill South Korea recently passed to ban the sending of anti-North Korea leaflets, his lawyer said Thursday.

Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector who runs Fighters for a Free North Korea, flew to Washington on Wednesday to attend the hearing that Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is seeking to convene to discuss the anti-leafleting law.

"Park left for the U.S. yesterday for the purpose of attending the U.S. Congress hearing and other reasons with a plan to return in early March," said Lee Heon, a lawyer serving as Park's legal representative.

When the hearing will take place has yet to be determined, he added.

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

The ban came after North Korea bristled at such activity and even blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in June last year. Pyongyang has denounced the leafleting as a violation of inter-Korean agreements and demanded that Seoul take preventive measures.

Critics have claimed that such a ban is tantamount to caving to Pyongyang's pressure. U.S. politicians and others have also said that the legislation could erode freedom of expression and block one crucial avenue for sending free world information into the reclusive country.

Park, a defector-turned-activist, earlier filed a constitutional complaint against the ban.

This photo, provided by Fighters for Free North Korea, an organization of North Korean defectors advocating for North Korean human rights, on June 23, 2020, shows a balloon containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets being sent toward North Korea. The group claimed it dispatched the leaflets in the border town of Paju, north of Seoul, the previous day, while escaping police surveillance. The action came amid mounting inter-Korean tensions caused by the organization's previous leaflet distribution and the Seoul government's declared crackdown on it. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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