EDITORIAL | South Korea’s new limits on free speech clash with G7 table seat
The fact that the dictatorship of the Communist Party and the military in North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK) suppresses freedom of expression is taken for granted and regularly draws criticism from around the world. But such aversion to free speech is not limited to authoritarian regimes.
It can also become a problem when a nation that espouses freedom and democracy adopts policies and institutions that directly infringe on free speech.
A serious example is South Korea’s new law that came into effect in March, banning the distribution of leaflets criticizing North Korea’s Pyongyang regime by balloon.
In South Korea, it was previously common for individuals and groups who oppose the Pyongyang regime led by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to attach leaflets and relief supplies to the helium balloons which then have been sent through the 38e parallel to North Korean territory.
These documents harshly criticize the inhuman dictatorship in North Korea and explain the truth about the current international situation and history.
To ban the sending of leaflets to the north amounts to violating one of the most important rights of citizens of democratic countries: “freedom of expression”.
The new law was passed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his ruling party in response to strong criticism from Pyongyang last year demanding a stop to hot air balloon flights. This submission to threats from Pyongyang by the South Korean leadership defies belief.
When President Moon met with US President Joe Biden in Washington DC on May 21, they discussed various issues related to North Korea. One of the things observers had an eye on was what the two men would have to say about the new law banning the distribution of leaflets.
At an April meeting of the bipartisan US Congressional Human Rights Committee, the South Korean government came under heavy criticism for, among other things, trying to bring South Korean society closer to that of Korea. North.
Then, in early May, South Korean police raided the offices of a group of North Korean defectors suspected of violating the new law by throwing large balloons carrying 500,000 leaflets near the area. demilitarized separating the two Koreas. It was a clear suppression of freedom of expression.
President Biden has promised that under his administration, the United States will speak out about human rights issues around the world. It is therefore unfortunate that the issue of the “anti-leaflet” law was not resolved during his summit meeting with Moon.
The joint statement issued following their summit meeting simply reiterated general policies, such as “we agree to work together to improve the human rights situation in the DPRK”.
The international community should not pretend not to see what is happening with the “anti-leaflet law,” which is emblematic of how the Moon administration regularly bowed down to Pyongyang.
Australia, India, South Korea and other countries have been invited to attend the G7 summit which is due to start in the UK on June 11, as they share the same common values as G7 members.
However, we have to ask ourselves if the Moon deserves a seat at this table, given how his administration so despicably mocks the dictatorship in North Korea while cracking down on free speech in South Korea.
G7 members, along with other participants such as Australia and India, are expected to pressure Moon to withdraw the “anti-leaflet law.”
(Read the Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese on this link.)
Author: editorial board, The Sankei Shimbun