SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) -- Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung has sent a letter to the United Nations and the U.S. Congress to call for support for a law that South Korea enacted to ban the sending of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into North Korea, officials said Sunday.
Lee, considered a leading presidential hopeful, said in the letter that the leafleting ban is the minimum measure to protect the lives, safety and properties of the people of Gyeonggi Province that includes regions bordering North Korea.
Lee also stressed in the letter that the law is a peaceful means that can prevent unnecessary military tensions and confrontation with North Korea and improve strained inter-Korean relations, according to provincial government officials.
The ruling Democratic Party-controlled National Assembly legislated the ban last year after North Korea expressed vehement anger at such leaflets that usually sharply criticize leader Kim Jong-un. In a dramatic expression of such anger, the North even blew up a joint inter-Korean liaison office building in June.
The government and the ruling party stressed that the ban is necessary to protect the lives and safety of residents living in the border areas because such leaflets could provoke the North to undertake bellicose acts, such as opening fire to shoot down leaflet-carrying balloons.
Many critics, including some U.S. lawmakers and international human rights groups, have expressed concerns about the bill, pointing out it could hurt the freedom of expression and undercut efforts to send outside information into the reclusive North.
Lee rejected the criticism, saying the legislation is a legitimate exercise of South Korea's sovereignty aimed at protecting the lives and safety of its people. It will also serve as a first step toward restoring trust between the two Koreas and moving inter-Korean relations forward, he said.
The letter was sent to the U.N. secretary-general, the chairman of the U.S. House Human Rights Commission, the chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the acting U.S. ambassador to South Korea, the European Union ambassador to South Korea and the U.N. special rapporteur on North Korea's human rights situation, the officials said.
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