Wall Street Journal op-ed: U.S. should confront South Korea on ‘its suppression of freedom’

by WorldTribune Staff, September 11, 2020

The American public is largely unaware of the deteriorating freedoms in heretofore staunch U.S. ally South Korea. Only WorldTribune.com has been chronicling this story. Now the Wall Street Journal is also paying attention.

Kim Yo-Jong, sister of Kim Jong-Un, shakes hands with a South Korean official at the DMZ on June 12, 2019. / AFP / Getty Images

In one recent major development, Kim Yo-Jong, the powerful sister of dictator Kim Jong-Un, on June 4 called on South Korea to “make a law to stop the farce” of North Korean defectors and South Korean activists, whom she referred to as “human scum” and “mongrel dogs,” using balloons to send information leaflets to the closed off North.

Within hours, the government of leftist South Korean President Moon Jae-In vowed it would ban the leaflet campaigns. Police raided the offices of activists and Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which oversees relations with North Korea, revoked the operating licenses of two activist organizations. Moon has also called for new laws to criminalize speech.

“Moon has staked his legacy on improving relations with Pyongyang, but in practice that’s meant taking cues from its vicious dictatorship,” Joshua Stanton and Sung-Yoon Lee noted in a Sept. 9 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

The “U.S. ought to call Seoul out on its suppression of freedom. Congress should increase funding for radio transmission into North Korea. And President Trump can use the presence of 29,000 U.S. troops, which most South Koreans support, as leverage. Rather than demanding Seoul pay more for American protection, a prospect Koreans would naturally resist, Mr. Trump could jolt South Korean voters out of complacency by withdrawing more ground troops under the rubric of ‘forces realignment,’ ” Stanton and Lee wrote.

Since Moon ordered a crackdown in July on activists protesting the North’s many atrocities, South Korea’s national police have audited more than 100 human-rights organizations.

Related: Defector tries to reach countrymen with real news; Seoul teams with Pyongyang to stop him, July 17, 2020

The South Korean president’s ruling party has also used the nation’s “criminal defamation” law to demand that Google Korea take down political commentaries they deem “fake news” and has used tax investigations to target opponents, the Journal analysis said, adding that “police have even investigated campus posters parodying Moon’s policies.”

In the National Assembly, where Moon’s Democratic Party holds a supermajority, new legislation has been introduced that would criminalize the expression of unsanctioned views about Korean history, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The Chosun newspaper reported that Moon’s party also intends to amend existing inter-Korean relations laws to criminalize acts that “endanger the physical integrity or life of South Koreans.” The amendment is seen as Moon’s government bowing to Pyongyang’s threat to fire on South Koreans who send messages across the border, and Seoul giving the Kim Jong-Un regime “an incentive to make more threats of violence and act on them, as it has in the past,” the Journal analysis noted.

With the ultimate objective of reunification with the North by 2045, Moon also plans to ask the National Assembly to ratify a series of agreements with Pyongyang to transcend “differences in ideology and systems,” and achieve “independent reunification led by Koreans” — a phrase North Korea uses to mean “independent of the U.S.”

“Most South Koreans do not support Mr. Moon’s bid to merge South and North Korea,” the analysis said. “But he’s determined to make it happen, as were his predecessors Roh Moo-Hyun and Kim Dae-Jung. This will surely be an issue in the country’s 2022 presidential election.”

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