Blue House speaks out against propaganda balloon launches

Posted on : 2020-06-12 15:47 KST Modified on : 2020-06-12 17:07 KST
National Security Council to approach launches as violations of inter-Korean agreements
National Security Council Secretary General Kim You-geun addresses the launches of propaganda balloons across the inter-Korean border by defector groups during a Blue House briefing on June 11. (Blue House photo pool)
National Security Council Secretary General Kim You-geun addresses the launches of propaganda balloons across the inter-Korean border by defector groups during a Blue House briefing on June 11. (Blue House photo pool)

On June 11, the Blue House expressed strong dismay over the launches of propaganda balloons into North Korea by defector groups and pledged a stern response. Its message was seen as an expression of commitment to stopping the inter-Korean tensions triggered by the launches and taking active measures to improve relations.

In a National Security Council (NSC) standing committee meeting that day presided over by National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong, the Blue House decided to take firm action against the launches as an action that violates inter-Korean agreements.

“The launches of propaganda balloons and other items is an act that we agreed to halt in various inter-Korean agreements, including not only the Panmunjom Declaration of 2018 but also an inter-Korean coordinating committee joint announcement based on the South-North Joint Communiqué of July 4, 1972, the first supplementary implementation agreement for the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement of 1992, and the June 4 agreement in 2004,” explained NSC Secretary General Kim You-geun.

“We are deeply dismayed at the fact that certain private groups continue launching balloons and items into North Korea in spite of inter-Korean agreements and ongoing crackdowns by the government,” he continued.

This is the first time the Blue House has stated its position on balloon launches and North Korea’s harsh response. It did not provide an official response previously when Kim Yo-jong, first deputy director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), urged it to respond to the launches in a statement directed at South Korea on June 4.

Item 2-1 of the Panmunjom Declaration of Apr. 27, 2018, states, “The two sides [South and North Korea] agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain including land, sea and air that are the root cause of military tension and conflicts. For the present, they agreed to stop all the hostile acts including the loud-speaker broadcasts and balloon launches in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) from May 1, to dismantle their means, and further to transform the DMZ into a peace zone in a genuine sense.”

The announcement based on the Joint Communiqué, which was signed under the Park Chung-hee administration, also states that the two sides “agreed to stop mutual broadcasts and the scattering of propaganda leaflets in each other’s regions as of midnight on Nov. 11, 1972, in accordance with the inter-Korean joint statement in which they agreed to refrain from vilifying the other side.” The citing of inter-Korean agreements reached by both the current administration and a past conservative administration appeared to be an attempt to minimize the outcry from conservatives.

Viewing launches as threats to peace on the Korean Peninsula

Kim went on to announce plans for a thorough crackdown, characterizing the balloon launches as a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula. “In addition to violating relevant domestic laws such as the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act, the Public Waters Management and Reclamation Act, the Marine Environment Management Act, and the Aviation Security Act, these acts are not in accordance with inter-Korean agreements and do not help our efforts to achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” he said, adding that the government would “rigorously crack down on balloons launches and sending other items into North Korea and response sternly to violations in accordance with the law.”

The indication of the administration’s commitment to active policing amounted to a promise to the North to prevent further incidents. Ahead of the NSC meeting that day, the Ministry of Unification (MOU) requested a Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) investigation of Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK) and Keun Saem -- the defector groups responsible for scattering leaflets in North Korea -- and initiated procedures to revoke their corporation status.

The Blue House also reiterated its commitment to inter-Korean dialogue and improving relations with Pyongyang. “The administration will continue to observe all inter-Korean agreements to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula and prevent unintended military clashes,” Kim said.

The Blue House’s expression of strong commitment to preventing future balloon launches reflected its aims of preventing inter-Korean tensions from escalating while using the opportunity to revive momentum toward the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue. On June 9, North Korea cut off all lines of communication with the South and made reference to additional measures, including withdrawal from the Inter-Korean Joint Liaison Office in Kaesong. This has led to fears that the Panmunjom Declaration -- seen as one of President Moon Jae-in’s signal achievements -- may be in serious jeopardy.

In a special address last month to mark his third year in office, Moon signaled his aim of actively improving ties with Pyongyang, voicing his hope at South and North would “become one community of life and peace through cooperation on human security” and proposing that the two sides “find what we can do between us now rather than looking solely to North Korea-US dialogue.” The Blue announced its commitment to improving relations with the NSC’s announcement on June 12 stressing compliance with the terms of inter-Korean agreements.

In addition to the regular NSC participants, the meeting that day was also reportedly attended by Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Moon Seong-hyeok and Minister of the Interior and Safety Chin Young, who discussed practical measures to crack down on leaflet scattering activities.

By Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporter

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