February 25, 2024

Moon Jae-in risks his human rights reputation for North Korea — without results

The South Korean president faces growing criticism as he attempts to appease a North that appears uninterested in talks

For months now, South Korea tried to stamp out North Korean defector groups’ activist work in an attempt to appease the North. Now, President Moon Jae-in’s reputation as a human rights lawyer with a squeaky-clean image may be at stake — especially as the DPRK continues to recede from diplomatic talks.

Earlier this summer, North Korea blew up the $8.6 million inter-Korean joint liaison office on June 16 — a move that, according to its state media, was provoked by defector-activist groups’ routine balloon launches sending informational leaflets over the border. Since then, local governments on the South Korean side have banned these launches, police have launched investigations into specific activist groups, and authorities have even moved to revoke a key permit from two of them.