South Korea will move to revoke the corporate permits of two defector-run NGOs regularly sending anti-regime leaflets across the border into North Korea, Seoul’s unification ministry said Wednesday.
The move follows multiple high-level statements by North Korea in recent days condemning Seoul’s failure to stop the leafleting and Pyongyang’s decision to cut off all inter-Korean communication lines as of Tuesday noon.
“Today, the government has decided to file a complaint against Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK) and Keunsaem for violating South-North Exchange and Cooperation Act,” unification ministry spokesperson Yoh Sangkey said at a briefing Wednesday afternoon.
South Korea also has decided to “launch a procedure revoking permission of incorporation” of the two NGOs, he added.
Park Sang Hak, the head of FFNK, condemned Seoul’s decision, saying that the administration was “sucking up” to the North and promising to continue sending leaflets to the North.
“I will respond with dropping the defectors’ letters of truth, written in blood, right above barbaric Kim Jong Un’s head,” he told NK News following the unification ministry announcement.
Ministry of Unification (MOU) defended its decision, however, arguing that the two groups, by sending anti-regime leaflets and plastic bottles filled with rice and other content, “directly violated the agreements made between the leaders of the South and the North.”
Such activities, the ministry said, “instigated tension between the South and North and brought danger to the life and safety of the border area residents.”
The official also accused the groups of breaching the inter-Korean exchange law: a 30-year-old act set to see major amendment in the near future in a bid by Seoul to facilitate inter-Korean exchanges.
FFNK and Keunsaem, ministry spokesperson Yoh said, breached articles requiring official state approval of goods being transferred between the two Koreas.
One article of that law gives the unification minister the power to order “necessary adjustments” regarding transferred items when, among other things, it is deemed “necessary for implementing South-North agreements” or sustaining “peace and safety.”
“We clearly state that scattering leaflets to the North is an activity that breaches the Panmunjom Declaration, which the South and North agreed to stop,” Yoh said, a reference to an agreement signed by the leaders of the two Koreas in April 2018.
And amid growing debate in South Korea over the appropriate response to Pyongyang’s escalation of tensions, former officials on Tuesday argued that the administration should take stronger steps to prevent activist groups from sending the leaflets.
Speaking to local radio KBS, Jeong Se-hyun — who served as unification minister from 2002 to 2004 — reportedly suggested that such activities should be halted “even through mobilizing military and police troops.”
Meanwhile, with Pyongyang continuing to ignore phone calls from Seoul, South Korean officials said Wednesday that they had stopped attempting to contact the North via the liaison channel.
“Until there is an agreement between South and the North about resuming inter-Korean communication line, we won’t be attempting to call them everyday,” unification ministry spokesperson Yoh said.
The resumption of tours at the Panmunjom peace village on the inter-Korean border, originally said to take place this month, is also being reconsidered, Yoh said.
But while the MOU on Wednesday vowed to take firm measures against the leafleting activists’ “instigating tension” on the peninsula, the country’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) the same day praised the South Korean military’s efforts in preserving peace.
Officials attending a military meeting led by the Minister of Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo on Wednesday assessed that the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement had “tangibly and actually contributed to relieving inter-Korean military tension for the past 20 months,” a statement by the ministry said.
“The military situation in the South-North border area is being stably managed, following the mutual halt to hostile activities in land, sea, and air,” it continued.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
South Korea will move to revoke the corporate permits of two defector-run NGOs regularly sending anti-regime leaflets across the border into North Korea, Seoul's unification ministry said Wednesday.
The move follows multiple high-level statements by North Korea in recent days condemning Seoul's failure to stop the leafleting and Pyongyang's decision to cut off all inter-Korean communication lines as of Tuesday noon.