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(2nd LD) Defectors' group sends balloons carrying propaganda leaflets to N. Korea

All News 15:07 April 28, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in last 4 paras; ADDS photo)

GIMPO, South Korea, April 28 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean defectors' group has sent 20 big balloons carrying propaganda leaflets, including those on the news of Yoon Suk-yeol's election as president, to North Korea across the western inter-Korean border, the group said Thursday.

Some 1 million anti-Pyongyang leaflets were sent over to North Korea in the latest leaflet campaign carried out in Gimpo, west of Seoul, on Monday-Tuesday, the Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK) said in a press release.

Some of the leaflets were carrying the news of Yoon's election as president and photos of him, the group said

"A great nation where a prosecutor has become a national leader," some of the leaflets read.

This image of a balloon carrying propaganda leaflets, some on the news of Yoon Suk-yeol's election as the new South Korean president, is provided by the Fighters for Free North Korea. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Through a revision of the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act last year, the South Korean government has been banning the sending of propaganda leaflets across the border, with people violating the law subject to up to three years in prison or a maximum fine of 30 million won (US$23,700).

Park Sang-hak, the head of the defectors' group, is standing trial on charges of launching balloons full of anti-North Korea leaflets and US$1 bills to North Korea across the Demilitarized Zone in Gyeonggi and Gangwon province on two occasions in April last year.

Before the law revision, the FFNK had often carried out such balloon campaigns in the hope of liberating North Korean people with news and information from the outside.

The FFNK argued in the press release that "North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened South Korea and the entire humanity with nuclear weapons and missiles in the latest military parade, putting South Korea's national security in an extremely precarious state."

Seoul's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said it is currently working to figure out relevant details, including whether the group's assertion is true and whether the balloons were sent.

The ministry's basic position is to work toward addressing the matter in accordance with the spirit of the revised law on improving inter-Korean relations to ensure the safety and security of border area residents, an official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity.

South Korea's parliament passed the revision to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act, billed as the anti-leafleting law, in December 2020 amid concerns the leaflet launches could provoke the North into taking hostile acts against the South.

In June 2020, North Korea blew up the inter-Korean joint liaison office in its border city of Kaesong, citing continued leaflet scattering.

Defectors' groups and some U.N. officials have expressed concerns that the legislation may undermine freedom of expression.

The South Korean government has stressed that the nature of the law wasn't about the restriction of freedom speech and that it is necessary to protect the lives of border area residents.

This Jan. 25, 2022, file photo shows North Korean defector and activist Park Sang-hak heading to a courtroom at the Seoul Central District Court to attend a hearing. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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