Defector tries to reach countrymen with real news; Seoul teams with Pyongyang to stop him

by WorldTribune Staff, July 17, 2020

A defector from North Korea who founded a group which has for years been sending food assistance and leaflets containing information into the North is not surprised by the threats he and his fellow defectors regularly receive from the Kim Jong-Un regime.

What does surprise Park Sang-Hak, however, is that supposedly democratic South Korea is now opposing and attempting to shut down his group’s efforts.

Park Sang-Hak hurls leaflets as police block his planned rally on a road in Paju, near the demilitarized zone, South Korea, in 2012. / Ahn Young-Joon / AP

Park, chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea, wrote in a July 13 op-ed for The Washington Post:

“Four weeks ago, Kim Yo-Jong, sister of dictator Kim Jong-Un, denounced human rights activists who send balloons across the border. ‘Human scum,’ she called us. The fury and rage of the regime, seeing its monopoly of information threatened so overtly, are palpable.

“South Korea, however, is a democracy, and distributing leaflets is a basic act of free speech. It is nonviolent and educational and allows citizens to engage in direct communication with those suffering under North Korean oppression.”

Park, who was awarded the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent in 2013, continued: “But shockingly, South Korean President Moon Jae-In seems to agree with the dictator’s sister. Just hours after her threats, the South Korean government announced that it would outlaw the balloon launches. Now, it has gone a step further and is pressing charges against my organization as well as a group led by my brother on the basis of a law that prohibits ‘unauthorized’ dealings with the North.

“Ten days ago, a TV station revealed my home address to the world, exposing me to other North Korean assassins and their supporters in the South. My personal bank accounts are under investigation, and the government has forbidden me from leaving the country.

“On June 30, the government moved to pull the civic licenses of our nongovernmental organization, preventing us from holding charity fundraisers.

“In the hope of appeasing the North, Moon is impeding the work of activists fighting the North’s human rights violations. His administration has cut overall funding dedicated to defending human rights in North Korea by 92 percent.”

Park continued: “Silenced defectors cannot inform the world about the atrocities taking place inside the North. Muzzled academics cannot study and compare different policies. Intimidated journalists cannot keep the public informed and aware of the government’s actions. Human rights groups should not be persecuted for encouraging free thought in North Korea. If the goal is to one day have free speech in the North, we cannot accept censorship in the South.

“If Moon continues to subdue activists, academics and anyone opposed to his policies, he will not only fail to help end dictatorship in North Korea. He will also erode liberal democracy in the South.”

Park Sang-Hak issued the following letter to foreign media outlets on July 9:

From: Fighters For Free North Korea

Title: South Korean Police, stop your surveillance on me in the name of “personal protection”

The president of Fighters For Free North Korea, Park Sang-Hak, was under police protection since 2008 due to threats from North Korea.

Despite numerous threats I’ve had from the North such as North Korean assassin Ahn Hak-Young’s use of a poisonous needle in September 2011, and another North Korean assassin Kim Young-Soo’s attempt to shoot me in June 2012, I’ve been requesting the police and the National Intelligence Service to halt my personal protection service because they were restricting me from North Korean Human Rights activities, including the leaflets.

Hitherto, lawful North Korean Human Rights activities have been somewhat limited and suppressed by the police. Albeit, the situations under previous presidents, President Lee Myung-Bak and President Park Geun-Hye were much better.

The Moon administration has been trying to apprehend Park Sang-Hak by invoking the “Kim Yo-Jong” law and put surveillance on him in the name of “personal” protection.

My office and home were all revealed to the Kim regime. However, I am not afraid of Kim Jong-Un’s threats. Further, I’d consider it an honor if the police who are a puppet of the Moon administration arrest me. Thus, I implore the Moon administration to halt my so-called “personal” protection.

[Note: The Songpa District (in Seoul) Police chief demanded Park submit a written “request to reject police protection.”]

On July 15, the North Korea Freedom Coalition wrote the following letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-In:

Re: Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem

Recently our Coalition learned that your government has announced its plans to revoke operation permits for North Korean human rights organizations: Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem. It is our belief that South Korea should protect, rather than target, human rights activities such as distributing anti-regime leaflets through balloons to the people of North Korea, as an act of free expression. We strongly urge you to reconsider this course of action and instead focus on advancing human rights and freedom in both South Korea and North Korea.

Both South Korea and North Korea are state parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which includes the right to impart information by any means, including across frontiers. This is a right that must be upheld. Human rights activists, including defectors, are protected by the right to freedom of expression, which includes the sending of leaflets to North Korea. Further, this right protects the ability of North Koreans to receive information, such as the information provided to them by the leaflets sent by human rights activists and organizations in South Korea.

Revocation of these permits would continue an alarming trend of your government’s intimidation of defector human rights activists and organizations. Fighters for a Free North Korea, Keunsaem, their members, and their leaders – Park Sang Hak and Park Jung Oh – have been repeatedly harassed by the South Korean government. Such harassment includes police surveillance, the filing of unwarranted criminal complaints, as well as government searches of activist’s cars, office, and personal effects. Such searches have occurred under false pretexts of possible breaches of donation laws and the High-Pressure Gas Safety Control Act. In addition to the planned revocation of operation permits, each of these actions are an alarming threat to the free expression rights of these South Korean citizens and their associated organizations. We urge your government to cease these actions of intimidation which seek to silence their freedom of expression.
If the South Korean government decides to continue its course of violating the rights of human rights activists and organizations, it will send a troubling signal to the global community and erode your country’s decades of progress for freedom and human rights.

South Korea has committed itself to human rights and the freedom of expression through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We urge you to honor this commitment by reconsidering any decision to revoke the operation permits for human rights organizations and ceasing the targeting of these groups through government action.

Respectfully Submitted,

Suzanne Scholte, Chairman
Pastor Heemoon Lee, Vice Chairman
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Vice Chairman
Jason West, Vice Chairman
Ann Buwalda, Treasurer
Sue Yoon Logan, Administrator
Teresa Ost, Secretary

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