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South Korea: Lawmaker nominated to oversee unification efforts hints return of leaflet propaganda balloons to North Korea
The incoming government of South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol will be expected to handle the threats coming from North Korea as tensions in the Korean peninsula remain. A conservative lawmaker who is poised to be in charge of overseeing unification efforts has recently hinted at the return to sending leaflet propaganda balloons to North Korea.
Reuters reports that lawmaker Kwon Young-se said Thursday that he is opposing a ban on sending propaganda into North Korea. Kwon is nominated to become the country’s unification minister.
Kwon explained that he believes banning people from sending propaganda through balloons to North Korea violated the right to free speech. The outgoing Liberal administration imposed the ban as part of its efforts to improve relations with North Korea. Kwon described the ban as “unconstitutionally problematic.”
For decades, activists and North Korean defectors would send over balloons with leaflets across the border between the two nations. Food, medicine, money, mini-radios, and flash disks filled with South Korean news and dramas were sent over by plastic bottles via the waterways and balloons to North Korea. Pyongyang has previously threatened to attack South Korea over the sending of balloons.
The ban was also criticized by defectors and activists, who claim that the ban was an effort to whitewash North Korea and silence critics in the government’s efforts to improve ties.
The incoming administration of Yoon is expected to take a hardline stance on North Korea. During a commentary in 2021, Kwon called to scrap the ban and accused outgoing President Moon Jae-in’s administration of neglecting ordinary North Koreans, saying that Moon’s administration is only looking to improve ties with North Korea’s leaders rather than improve the lives of North Korean citizens.
Meanwhile, the US envoy to North Korea will be visiting Seoul next week to meet with South Korean counterparts to discuss the international response to Pyongyang’s weapons tests, most especially its recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM.
US Special Representative Sung Kim has said he is willing to engage in discussions with North Korea at any time without any preconditions, but Pyongyang has since rejected the overtures and accused Washington of maintaining policies it has described as hostile such as military drills with South Korea and sanctions.