Representations Made To the UK Foreign Secretary about the Republic of Korea’s “Gag Law”

Dec 20, 2020 | News

Representations Made To the UK Foreign Secretary about the Republic of Korea’s “Gag Law”

20 December, 2020
The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP
Secretary of State
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH

Dear Foreign Secretary,

We are writing to bring to your attention and with our grave concerns legislation which
was passed by the National Assembly on 14 December 2020 in South Korea, to
amend the Inter-Korean Relations Development Act. This amendment is now awaiting
the signature and approval of President Moon Jae-in.
If enacted, the amendment would criminalise the distribution of materials or
broadcasting via loudspeakers and posting of placards information directed at North
Korea in the inter-Korean border areas. Such materials would include leaflets, USB
flash drives, CDs, books, and Biblical materials to North Korea through third countries,
such as China without governmental approval. The amendment reads as follows:

  1. The term “leaflets, etc.” means leaflets, goods (including promotional and
    propaganda materials, print materials and auxiliary storage devices), money or
    other property interests.
  2. The term “dissemination” means the act of distributing to unspecified multiple
    persons in North Korea or moving to North Korea leaflets, etc. (including simply
    moving leaflets, etc. via a third country. Hereinafter the same shall apply) for
    the purpose of propaganda and gift, etc. without approval in accordance with
    article 13 or article 20 of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act
    Article 25 (Penal provisions) (1) Any person who violates Article 24 (1) shall be
    punished by imprisonment for not more than three years or by a fine not
    exceeding thirty million won; provided that the same shall not apply to cases
    where the effect of the inter-Korean agreements (limited to the ones that
    stipulate the prohibited act under each subparagraph of Article 24 (1)) has been
    suspended in accordance with article 23 (2) and (3).
    For more details on this amendment, please find the attached briefing of the
    Development of the inter-Korean Relations Act.

The purpose of this bill is to silence North Korean human rights and religious activities
and voices from South Korean soil, in pursuit of the development of improved inter-
Korean relations. However, sacrificing such basic freedoms and criminalising activities
that promote democracy and human rights are not the right approaches to inter-
Korean relations, especially given South Korea’s democratic constitutional rule of law,
based on protection for basic human rights of freedom of speech, expression, and
religion or belief.
If this bill is signed into law by President Moon Jae-in, there are no more platforms on
the Korean peninsula for promoting North Koreans’ human rights and dignity as
enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is a great undermining of the recognition
of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the
democratic family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace. Moreover, this will
cause great social and political insecurity for over 33,000 North Korean escapees
residing in Seoul, despite their status as recognised South Korean nationals under the
one Korea policy.
We understand that the United Kingdom continues to support the peacebuilding
process and human rights on the Korean peninsula. This was one of the reasons Her
Majesty’s Government had provided tens of thousands of British soldiers and suffered
thousands of casualties during the Korean War of 1950-53. Unfortunately, Korea’s
division remains until today and the human rights violations and nuclear development
in the DPRK cause great security tension and peace threats in the Asian Pacific and
Given the British Government’s efforts to address the current situation in Korea, we
urge you to speak out regarding these concerns about the amendment to the Inter-
Korean Relations Act, and to raise these issues with the Government of the Republic
of Korea as a matter of urgency. As a UN Security Council Member and a leading
proponent of sanctions on the DPRK in view of the regime’s nuclear programme and
human rights violations, we hope the United Kingdom will urge South Korea to
reconsider this amendment.
Please do not hesitate to request further information about the amendment to the Inter-
Korean Relations Act Amendment. You can contact us through Lord Alton of Liverpool.

Yours sincerely,

Lord Alton of Liverpool, Co-Chair All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea,

Thae Yong-ho, Former DPRK Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom London &
Member of the South Korean National Assembly

Ji Seong-ho, North Korean escapee & Member of the South Korean National

Timothy Cho, British-North Korean escapee & Inquiry Clerk to the All-Parliamentary
Group on North Korea

Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights
Commission and Senior Analyst, East Asia, at CSW

Jihyun Park, British-North Korean escapee & Human Rights Activist

Dr. Jieun Baek, Fellow at Belfer Centre, Harvard Kennedy School & Founder/Codirector
of Lumen

Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director, Committee For Human rights in North Korea.

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