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Defectors warned against sending leaflets into North Korea

Defectors warned against sending leaflets into North Korea
North Korean defectors in the South have protested a new law that bans anti-Pyongyang leaflets at the border. File Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

April 23 (UPI) -- South Korea issued a warning to North Korean defectors and activists after groups said they plan to launch thousands of leaflets and U.S. dollar bills at the border.

Seoul's unification ministry said Friday it plans to carry out the purpose of the amendment to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act in order to "protect the lives and safety of South Korean citizens in the border region," local news service EDaily reported.

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The bill, which passed in December at the National Assembly, went into effect March 30. The law can punish violators with a three-year maximum prison sentence or a maximum fine of about $27,000.

"We will cooperate with relevant organizations, including the police, to manage the distribution of leaflets of some of the organizations," the ministry said.

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On Friday, defector Park Sang-hak of Fighters for a Free North Korea told Yonhap he plans to send 500,000 leaflets and 5,000 $1 bills from an undisclosed location anytime between Sunday and May 1.

"The leaflets will include a message criticizing [North Korea's] three-generation hereditary dictatorship and telling them to give out at least the minimum amount of food required for North Korean people," Park said.

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Anti-Pyongyang activists previously filed a constitutional petition against the law, claiming the rule is "excessive" and interferes with freedom of expression.

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Critics of the law have said it uses domestic security concerns as a pretext to prevent outside information from reaching North Korea.

The United Nations has voiced concerns about the law.

On Monday, U.N. Special Rapporteur for North Korean Human Rights Tomás Ojea Quintana, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Nyaletsossi Voule and Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, sent a letter to Seoul that addressed their concerns, News 1 reported Friday.

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Rapporteurs said the South Korean law "negatively impacts the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression," according to Yonhap.

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