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Ex-minister decries U.S. congressional hearing on anti-N.K. leafleting ban

North Korea 17:16 April 12, 2021

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) -- A former unification minister on Monday denounced a planned U.S. congressional hearing on South Korea's ban on the sending of anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea as an interference in internal affairs.

Jeong Se-hyun, who currently serves as executive vice chairperson of the presidential National Unification Advisory Council, made the remarks during an interview with a local radio station, days before a bipartisan caucus of the U.S. House holds the hearing on Thursday.

The caucus, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said last week it will hold "a hearing on freedom of expression on the Korean peninsula" and five witnesses have been called in to testify, including Suzanne Scholte, a vocal anti-Pyongyang human rights activist.

"The U.S. Congress holding a public hearing is a kind of interference in internal affairs," Jeong told TBS radio. "Although the U.S. is a huge country, it is an illusion to think that the U.S. Congress can do anything."

Jeong also accused the caucus of having "impure intentions" for holding the public hearing in time for the birth anniversary of late founder Kim Il-sung to provoke the North and possibly affect the U.S. administration's ongoing policy review.

"I think this reflects the intentions of the Republican Party to influence the Biden administration's policy on North Korea to an extent," he said.

South Korea has stressed that the leafleting 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.

Critics say the ban could hurt the freedom of expression and undercut efforts to send outside information into the North.

This file photo shows Jeong Se-hyun, executive vice chairman of the presidential National Unification Advisory Council, speaking during a meeting in Seoul on Feb. 11, 2020, to call for the reopening of the shuttered joint industrial complex in the North Korean city of Kaesong. (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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