The South Korean government revoked the operation permits of two defector groups on Friday for sending anti-North Korea leaflets across the border, officials said, after Pyongyang furiously denounced their activities.
The move is likely to trigger debate over potential infringements on freedom of expression in the democratic South. The leaflets — usually attached to hot air balloons or floated in bottles — criticize North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over human rights abuses and his nuclear ambitions.
But by sending them, the two groups “severely hindered” the government’s “efforts for unification”, Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement. They also raised tensions on the Korean peninsula, and “put the safety and lives” of Koreans living in border towns “in danger”, it added.
Revoking the groups’ operational permits does not render them illegal, but will make it harder for them to raise money and deny them access to benefits for registered organizations.
Inter-Korean relations have been in deep freeze following the collapse of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump early last year over what the nuclear-armed North would be willing to give up in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.
[Agence France Press]