South Korea said Thursday it planned to push new laws to ban activists from flying anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border after North Korea threatened to end an inter-Korean military agreement reached in 2018 to reduce tensions if Seoul fails to prevent the protests.
The South’s desperate try to keep alive a faltering diplomacy will more than likely trigger debates over freedom of speech in just one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies.
Sending balloons across the border has been a common activist tactic for years, but North Korea considers it an attack on its government. Defectors and other activists in recent weeks have used balloons to fly leaflets criticizing the North’s authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un over his nuclear ambitions and dismal human rights record.
While Seoul has sometimes sent police officers to bar such activities during times of high tension, it had resisted the North’s calls to completely ban them, saying the activists were exercising their freedoms.
The shift followed remarks earlier every morning from Kim’s powerful sister, who threatened to end the military agreement and said the North could permanently shut a liaison office and an inter-Korean factory park which have been major symbols of reconciliation.
In her own statement released through state media, Kim Yo Jong referred to as defectors active in the balloon launches “human scum” and “mongrel dogs” who betrayed their homeland and stated it was “time to create their proprietors to account,” making reference to government entities in Seoul.
Yoh Sang-key, spokesman of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said the balloon campaigns were threatening the safety of residents surviving in the border area and that his government will push for legal changes to “fundamentally resolve tension-creating activities.”
When asked whether the ministry would specifically express regret over the North’s threat to abandon inter-Korean agreements, Yoh said: “we will substitute our evaluation (from the North Korean) statement with the announcement from the government position (in the issue).”
South Korea’s ruling liberal party as well as its satellite party have 180 seats from the 300-seat National Assembly after winning April’s elections, creating a good majority to win approval for the proposal in parliament.
North Korea’s latest denouncement in the balloon protests follows months of frustration over the South’s unwillingness to defy US-led international sanctions up against the North.
Kim Yo Jong took a higher profile in North Korean affairs within her brother’s diplomatic efforts in 2018 and contains been issuing her first public statements as that diplomacy has slowed recently. State media has carried her comments ridiculing Seoul for protesting a North Korean military drill but praising President Donald Trump for offering to assist the North with anti-virus efforts.
“(South Korean) authorities will need to pay a dear price once they let this situation continue while making kind of excuses,” she said in advocating South Korea outlaw the balloon protests.
“If they forget to take corresponding steps to the senseless act up against the fellow countrymen, they had better get themselves ready for chance of the whole withdrawal in the already desolate Kaesong Industrial Park following the stop and tour of (Diamond Mountain), or shutdown of your (North-South) joint liaison office whose existence only enhances trouble, or the scrapping in the (North-South) agreement in military field that is hardly associated with a value.”
In a separate statement, the international affairs department of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of spewing “rubbish” over his critical comments toward Beijing, which is Pyongyang’s biggest ally.
Pompeo said the Chinese Communist Party was putting Americans at risk because it has come to “view itself as intent upon the destruction of Western ideas, Western democracies, Western values.?, in a Fox News interview on Sunday?
The department’s unidentified spokesman also commented on the intensifying protests in america over the death of George Floyd, saying that the unrest exposes harsh realities in the united states.
“Demonstrators enraged through the extreme racists throng even going to the White House. This is the reality from the U.S. today. American democracy and liberalism put the cap of leftist on the demonstrators and threaten to unleash even dogs for suppression.”
Seoul has touted the military agreement, reached through the third summit between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, like a major step in the peace process.
The Koreas had decided to jointly look for human remains from the 1950-53 Korean War and make a plan to minimize conventional military threats, such as establishing buffer with out-fly zones. Additionally, they removed some front-line guard posts and jointly surveyed a waterway near their western border allowing freer civilian navigation.
However, the North has been less enthusiastic about upholding inter-Korean agreements as the larger nuclear talks with the U.S. stalemate. North Korea has suspended practically all cooperation together with the South, while pressuring Seoul to break away from Washington and restart the joint economic projects, which may breathe life to the North’s broken economy.
“If they truly value the (North-South) agreements where you can will to thoroughly implement them, they must clear their property of rubbish,” said Kim Yo Jong, who’s considered her brother’s closest confidant.
The liaison office in Kaesong is closed since late January right after the Koreas consented to temporarily shut down up until the coronavirus outbreak is controlled.
The North also has postponed plans to tear down South Korean-made hotels along with other facilities in the North’s Diamond Mountain resort included in its virus-prevention efforts. They have said there hasn’t been a single case of Covid-19 on its territory, an insurance claim widely disbelieved.