Dec. 2 (UPI) — South Korea is one step closer to banning anti-Pyongyang leafleting at the North Korea border after a parliamentary committee passed a bill, citing “resident safety” near the DMZ.
Lawmakers with the ruling Democratic Party on the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee approved the bill that would prohibit the distribution of anti-Kim Jong Un media, after conservatives walked out of the meeting Wednesday, Tongil News and Seoul Economic Daily reported.
The bill will undergo a review at the National Assembly’s legislation committee before a final vote, according to the Korea Herald.
Seoul’s leaflet crackdown began after Kim Yo Jong, the sister of leader Kim Jong Un, condemned the activity and called defectors in the South “human garbage” for defaming the North Korean leadership.
South Korea’s unification ministry Wednesday welcomed the development, according to CBS No Cut News.
The bill, if enforced, will protect the lives of 1.12 million South Koreans living at the border and promote the “sustainable development of inter-Korean relations,” the ministry said.
“The government will do its best to protect the lives and safety of the people in accordance with the resolution,” Seoul said in statement.
South Korea has faced domestic and international criticism for cracking down on anti-Pyongyang activism.
South Korean conservatives who walked out of the meeting on Wednesday told reporters the government of President Moon Jae-in had “passed an unconstitutional bill” to “preserve the Kim Jong Un regime.”
Democratic Party lawmaker Song Young-gil, who chairs the committee, said the bill is not an attack on free speech, according to Tongil News.
“Even if North Korean defectors criticize President Moon Jae-in in Gwanghwamun Square and call him a communist, no one will detain them,” Song said.
North Korean defectors have been permitted to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets by balloon for years. South Korea has previously threatened to revoke their operating licenses.