Seoul revokes permits of North Korean defector groups

WION Web Team
Seoul, South Korea Published: Jul 17, 2020, 02:53 PM(IST)

Balloons being prepared in April 2014 Photograph:( WION )

Story highlights

The leaflets -- usually attached to hot air balloons or floated in bottles -- criticise North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.

South Korea has repealed the permission given to two defector groups for sending anti-North leaflets across the border in the aftermath of Pyongyang furiously denouncing their activities and blowing up a liaison office. Revoking the groups' operational permits does not render them illegal, but will make it harder for them to raise money and deny them access to benefits for registered organisations.

The leaflets -- usually attached to hot air balloons or floated in bottles -- criticise North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.

But by sending them, the two groups "severely hindered" the government's "efforts for unification", Seoul's unification ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also raised tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Inter-Korean relations have been in deep freeze following the collapse of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump early last year over what the nuclear-armed North would be willing to give up in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.

Both Koreas used to regularly send leaflets to the other side, but agreed to stop such propaganda activities -- including loudspeaker broadcasts along the frontier -- in the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Kim and the South's President Moon Jae-in at their first summit in 2018.

Last month Pyongyang issued a series of vitriolic condemnations of South Korea over the leaflets. It also upped the pressure by blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border and threatening military measures.

Seoul officials previously banned leaflet activities in border areas and filed a police complaint against the groups.

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