The South Korean government on Friday called on activist groups to “immediately” stop flying anti-DPRK leaflets into North Korea, warning them that doing so would “directly” violate the spirit of last week’s Panmunjom Declaration.
The statement from the Ministry of Unification (MOU) comes as NGOs insist they will send the balloons over the weekend, in defiance of Seoul’s calls on Tuesday for them to refrain from making the launches.
The unification ministry earlier in the week said the government was asking the groups to stop sending flyers to the North in keeping with last Friday’s agreement between the two Koreas.
Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK), led by the high-profile defector and activist Park Sang-hak, plans to push ahead with a plan to launch anti-regime leaflets on Saturday at noon from the Mt. Ohdu Unification Observatory near the inter-Korean border.
In response to the news, the MOU ratcheted up its rhetoric against the activist group, insisting that the group cease and desist.
“The distribution of leaflets toward North Korea directly violates the spirit of agreement of the Panmunjom Declaration agreed by the South and North Korean leaders for the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula,” the MOU said in a written statement.
The MOU spokesperson said the spread of the flyers would heighten military tensions in areas along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL).
“It is desirable that [the distribution] should be immediately stopped in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration for the peace on the Korean peninsula and the alleviation of the military tensions.”
Seoul and Pyongyang last week agreed to “completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea” in the Panmunjom Declaration following the inter-Korean summit on April 27.
The two Koreas agreed to cease “all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets” near the MDL as of Tuesday.
Friday saw the MOU insist the spread of the flyers “should be suspended to protect the safety of residents living on the borders and to prevent social conflict.”
Seoul warned it would mobilize police to intervene should the activist groups push forward with the plan.
“In preparation for the distribution of the leaflets, we plan to request the Korean National Police Agency to actively clamp down on it,” the ministry spokesperson said on Friday.
“We will firmly cope with the spread of the leaflets toward North Korea in cooperation with relevant organizations including the police while strengthening our cooperation with private organizations.”
The MOU on Tuesday suggested the Moon Jae-in administration would mobilize the police in the event that the launches constituted a threat to the safety of locals.
The DPRK military fired around 10 shots at balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets in October 2014 – a move which led to the exchange of gunfire between the two Koreas.
Residents of border towns have since raised concerns about the launches.
Pyongyang has in the past strongly condemned the sending of anti-DPRK flyers across the inter-Korean border, though pro-regime leaflets, potentially sent from the North, have frequently been spotted in central Seoul in the past year.
The Korean People’s Army (KPA) in March 2015 threatened to open fire on balloons carrying the leaflets, warning South Koreans living in the vicinity of the MDL to evacuate in advance.
Though the Park Geun-hye administration repeatedly said there was “no legal basis for the government to forcibly restrict the spread of leaflets” local police several times forcibly attempted to stop activist groups from flying the balloons.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Human Rights Foundation