Prosecutors and lawyers say a North Korean defector has been charged with violating South Korea’s law banning leaflets along the inter-Korean border.
Park Sang-hak is the first person to be prosecuted under the new law, which critics say puts engagement with North Korea above human rights.
For several yearsMr. Park and others like him have launched balloons into North Korea with propaganda leaflets calling on the North Korean people to rise up against their authoritarian leader, Kim Jong-un. Under the law that went into effect last March, sending such leaflets has been made a crime punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison.
Mr. Park defied the ban in April by launching 10 balloons carrying half a million leaflets. The police then raided his office and questioned him. In July, they formally asked prosecutors to prosecute Mr. Park under a law that President Moon Jae-in has pledged to strictly enforce.
Mr. Lee Hun, Mr. Park’s lawyer, said on Friday that he had received official notice from prosecutors that Mr. Park had been indicted on Wednesday on charges of “attempting” to send out leaflets because of the allegations. Investigators lacked evidence that the leaflets actually landed in the North. .
North Korea called the leaflets an “unforgivable provocation”. Moon’s government sponsored the new law after accusing activists of unnecessarily provoking the North.
The president’s conservative critics accuse him of suppressing free speech and supporting Mr Kim’s totalitarian dictatorship “at the behest of North Korea”.
“If an evil law is a law, put me in jail!” Mr. Park said on Friday. “Even if they put me in jail, my colleagues will continue to send leaflets.”
After Mr. Park released the leaflets in April, Kim’s sister and spokesman, Kim Yo-jong, called him “dirty human scum” and warns of “consequences.”
About 33,800 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the 1990s. Mr. Park, who defected in 1999, has stood out for his public campaigning in support of North Korea’s human rights, despite critics. Critics consider him theatrical.
his group, Those who fought for the freedom of Korea, called the Kim family ruling in Pyongyang “promiscuous” and “dictator pigs”, and burned them to effigy during outdoor protests in South Korea. Its leaflet also calls Mr. Kim a “human butcher” who killed him Uncle and half brother.
There are no reliable studies on how many North Koreans read or react to propaganda leaflets. Analysts say the leaflets are not as effective as radio programs and flash drives smuggled across the Chinese border. But leaflets are perhaps the most visible campaign tactic by activists.
Mr. Park often invites the media to his balloon launch ceremonies, where large hydrogen balloons cross the border armed with the world’s most powerful weapons. While in North Korea, the timers clicked, unwrapping bundles of vinyl. Flyers, dollar bills, mini bibles and USB drives full of content banned in the North falling out of the sky like snowflakes.
Mr. Kim keeps his people in total blackout in North Korea, blocks the internet and ensures that all radio and TV stations receive only his government’s propaganda broadcasts. The Seoul government said the balloons pose a danger to people living on both sides of the border.
In 2014, the North Korean army fired artillery shells at balloons drifting across the border, but instead hit South Korean villages, forcing the South to shoot back.
In a poll Last May, 51% of respondents in South Korea supported the new ban, while 37% thought it violated freedom of expression. Among those living near the border, the approval rate is 57 to 60 percent. Provinces near the border also called on Mr. Park to punish him.
When North Korea explode in 2020, a liaison office on the side of the border where officials from both Koreas worked together, it cited South Korea’s failure to implement a consent guarantee leaflets and other propaganda wars as motivation. Moon’s government accelerated efforts to push the anti-flicker bill through the National Assembly after the liaison office was destroyed.
South Korea’s conservative opposition has noted a stark contrast between Moon’s crackdown on leaflets and his restrained response to North Korea. kill a Korean seafood official or when the country likens Mr. Moon to a “parrot” and “crossbreed dog “ on order from the United States.
“President Moon seems to believe that the only way to keep peace on the Korean Peninsula is to do nothing that can influence the Kim cousins in the North,” said Tae Yong-ho, a former foreign minister. North Korea is currently the opposition said. legislator in Seoul.
Mr. Park, who will stand trial in the coming weeks for violating the ban on leaflets, has had some harsh critics of his own, many of them also North Korean human rights activists.
Lee Min-bok, another defector from North Korea, criticized not only the law but also Mr. Park, who he said jeopardized the entire ballooning campaign by provoking both governments.
Mr. Lee started sending out flyers in 2006, ahead of Mr. Park, and advocates for activities that simply don’t attract media attention. He launched leaflets focused on delivering news from outside North Korea, rather than criticizing the Kim regime.
“The extremely provocative language in Park Sang-hak’s leaflets has nothing to do with North Korea’s human rights promotion, but is tailored to please conservatives and incite progressives in the country. the South,” said Mr. Lee. “He wants to be a hero by going to jail for breaking this law.”
Mr. Park’s legal troubles came before Friday’s indictment. He is also on trial for breaking donation laws. In August, he was given an 8-month suspended prison sentence for beat a Korean television reporter came to his house to request an interview.
Mr. Park has denied the charges against him and dismissed his critics as “snake” and “hypocritical”. He often points out an incident in 2011, when a man arrest in South Korea on charges of plotting to assassinate him with a lethal injection needle at the request of North Korea.
Mr. Park told reporters in May: “Kim Jong-un wants to kill me, and President Moon wants to put me in jail. “But they can’t stop us from telling the truth and the truth.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/world/asia/korea-border-leaflets-speech-law.html Korea allows defectors from the North through leaflets