Seoul, South Korea – “Is South Korea a dictator?” asked Park Sang-hak, a North Korean rebel and leader of the Free North Korean Fighters who sends helium balloons packed with northeast leaflets. “Is it a free and democratic country?”
Park sent 10 balloons full of 500,000 leaflets and 5,000 one-dollar bills to North Korea at the end of last month. He said he wanted the people of North Korea to know the truth about Kim Jong Un’s ambassador and that the people of North Korea should revolt against his government. The papers challenge the Kims royal monarchy. The dollar bill encourages people to pick up leaflets.
Park has installed such balloons 60 times in the last 10 years. The difference now is that it is against the law – South Korean law.
“The only ban is a criminal law,” Park told Al Jazeera.
Park balloon triggers are often present at press conferences.
But in April they kept the venue secret and sent balloons from the border around the night, fearing capture by South Korean government officials to reduce their workload.
On May 6, police stormed his office, promising to investigate further.
After appearing at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency for questioning four days later, he harassed the compassionate government and explained what they were publishing.
“These are the ones who wrote letters to our families in North Korea. Letters of truth, freedom and love. And now we are not even allowed to write letters? Park said.
The introduction of balloons containing pamphlets, CDs, USBs and other items in North Korea was banned with the December 2020 amendment to the South Korea Development of Inter-Korea Relations Act.
Park now faces a fine of $ 27,000 and a three-year prison sentence if convicted.
The Democratic Party and government officials justified the change on two counts.
First, that the initiative puts the lives of South Korean people living at the border in danger – in 2014, North Korea trained paper guns on machine guns arriving in South Korea.
Second, that the pamphlets are hampering their efforts to bring peace to North Korea.
In the file of special events of 2018 between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both agreed to end all evil, including the distribution of leaflets.
But Park Sang-hak continued his work.
Following balloon cover by Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, for balloons, in June last year, North Korea destroyed the central communications office in central Korea located across the border into North Korea. An explosion was seen from the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Kim Yo Jong also tried to follow the opening of the balloon in April.
“We see the driving that has taken place with the filth of the south as an annoyance to our government and see it as a coincidence, ”he told television.
Efforts to build peace
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made architecture the basis of his government’s vision since he was first elected in 2017.
On May 10, he wrote his fourth year in office, leaving him last year to promote his career in Korea.
This could come with the help of the United States, and this week Moon will travel to the White House for a May 21 meeting with his US counterpart, Joe Biden.
Researchers hope the Moon will decide to bring the US and North Korea back to the negotiating table.
“We will restore dialogue between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea,” Moon said.
He also responded to criticism of anti-opposition laws.
“It is unthinkable for us to end Korean relations and to break the Korean agreement … the government has no choice but to abide by these rules,” he said.
Washington has just finished reviewing its principles in North Korea, which focuses on the negotiations.
A recent debate around the Park and its origins could give the impression of the Moon’s plans.
Following the law in December, human rights groups criticized the people. Human Rights Watch stated that services such as paperwork were protected under Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements ratified by South Korea.
But some experts say that South Korea’s special status should be commended.
“From a foreign point of view, (the law) seems to be a radical change in the right to freedom of speech and expression … but according to the Korean peninsula, it should be accepted as a bargaining chip between Korea,” said Professor Chae Jin-won. Hee, he told Al Jazeera.
The law and the controversy could also affect President Moon’s ability to persuade the US to reach North Korea and create an opportunity to protect President Moon.
Last month, U.S. lawmakers convened a special anti-freedom committee on the Korean Peninsula, focusing on “anti-corruption laws”.
The online commission began to interfere in politics – with President Moon acting as a dictator in North Korea, banning the freedom of North Koreans who want to free prisoners from their country.
“There is nothing stronger than the North Korean people living freely in South Korea reaching out to the North Korean people who are living in slavery under Kim’s rule,” Suzanne Scholte of the North Korea Freedom Coalition told the committee.
Some were skeptical of such evidence, and the bloggers’ own actions were politically motivated.
“By distributing the leaflets and the media at assemblies, they can enhance the image as North Korean human rights activists and raise money for their work,” Concert and Peace Society’s Jeon Su-mi human rights lawyer told the committee.
Jeon also said that North Korean people have access to information from abroad through border towns, concluding, “sending leaflets does not take me as a tool to promote human rights in North Korea”.
Turning to the radio
Instead of adopting laws like Park Sang-hak, some North Korean activists have resorted to other methods.
Huh Kwang-il came to South Korea in 1995 after working as a carpenter in Russia, where he learned a lot about southern and foreign. He used to send CDs and USBs to North Korea, but in March he started distributing waway.
“Our goal is to awaken the people of North Korea and promote their human rights, so that they can ultimately claim to be independent,” Huh told Al Jazeera.
Huh also criticized the President of South Korea for following a law that restricted his freedom of speech in a way that he felt violated the rights of others and the “freedom of knowledge” of the North Korean people.
“By oppressing the people of North Korea, (the South Korean government) acts as a tyrant, and ultimately the victims are North Koreans,” he said.
However, Moon’s monitors have been adamant in their efforts to curb the activities of North Korean NGOs in the hope of capturing North Korea at the end of their term.
At his inaugural meeting on May 7 Moon, who was elected Prime Minister, reiterated the government’s claim that the leaflets “threaten the security of our people” and are in violation of the Panmunjom Act of 2018.
Freedom fighters in the Free North Park Park have decided to challenge the ordinance as illegal and file a complaint against the Moon.
Huh wants to continue broadcasting.
“This is a temporary assignment given to North Korean refugees. He cannot be stopped, ”said Huh.