“As the poor relationship between North and South Korea this year has become blocked even more due to this leaflet distribution, the Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex is being driven into a crisis situation, as buyers’ orders are cancelled, businesses are faced with bankruptcy, the entrance and exit of buyers and investors is restricted, and South Korean staff members are expelled.”
These words are part of an appeal sent last Saturday to groups distributing leaflets to North Korea by the Gaeseong Industrial Complex Tenant Companies Association. The association also urged the halting of leaflet distribution on October 10. According to them, the continued distribution of leaflets is souring inter-Korean relations and creating a crisis in the industrial complex, inevitably harming tens of thousands of North and South Korean workers.
But the Abductees’ Family Union and Fighters for a Free North Korea, a North Korean defectors’ group, are paying no mind to the earnest appeal of these companies. They sent 10 large balloons carrying over 10,000 leaflets to the North on Sunday over the East and West Seas. On October 10, the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Workers’ Party, a similar quantity of leaflets was distributed. The leaflets contain words explicitly urging an overthrow of the North Korean system, stating, “The dictator has collapsed from illness. You must go forth and fight to overthrow Kim Jong-il’s ‘military first’ dictatorship.”
Following an agreement made at the June 2004 general-level talks, both North and South Korea ceased the distribution of propaganda in the region of the Military Demarcation Line, including broadcasts, bulletins and leaflets. They also agreed on several occasions to respect each other’s system and avoid slandering or vilifying each other. Thus, even if it is the act of private groups, the distribution of slanderous leaflets north of the cease-fire line goes against the spirit of agreements made between North and South Korea. Pyongyang has already made several official demands this month for the cessation of leaflet distribution. In the meeting of North and South Korean military coordinators last Sunday, the expression “severe situation” was used. One can easily foresee Pyongyang raising its level of response with South Korea seeming to deliberately ignore its demands.
The government’s approach, however, has not been particularly active. It amounts to little more than a plea for the groups in question to cease their distribution activities. It is a very different situation from exaggerating the damages suffered by businesses in areas where candlelight demonstrations were held to place pressure on demonstrators and stubbornly investigating mothers with strollers. Will it ignore a group activity that will clearly harm inter-Korean relations and businesses operating in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, and at the same time use whatever means necessary to stop demonstrations and protests critical of the government? If the government does not want inter-Korean relations to break down completely, they must put an immediate end to the distribution of leaflets to North Korea. Naturally, the groups involved must stop their distribution activities first.
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