(Gyeonggi Provincial Government-Yonhap)
The provincial government of Gyeonggi, which surrounds Seoul and borders North Korea to the north, took one step further in its crackdown on the distribution of propaganda leaflets into the North by issuing an administrative order on Wednesday banning anyone from entering its border areas to float such leaflets and threatening legal punishments.
In the order, the Gyeonggi government said it will designate five cities and counties close to the inter-Korean border as off-limits danger zones until the end of November to prevent North Korean defectors and South Korean activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets and materials across the border.
The five danger zones are Yeoncheon, Pocheon, Paju, Gimpo and Goyang. It is the first time that a danger zone has been declared in South Korea in connection with anti-North leaflet campaigns.
The provincial government said all aspiring senders of anti-Pyongyang leaflets and materials are barred from entering the danger zones, let alone from carrying or preparing materials related to anti-North leaflet campaigns in those areas.
Violators will be arrested on the scene and face imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 10 million won ($8,300) under the Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety, it noted.
The administrative order came one day after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office building in its border town of Kaesong following its repeated warnings over the propaganda leaflets and materials flown across the heavily fortified border by balloons or drones.
Defectors and anti-Pyongyang activists have long sent a large number of leaflets and materials, mostly via giant balloons, criticizing the communist regime and its leader Kim Jong-un. These are often launched with $1 bills and USB memory sticks to get more North Koreans to pick up the leaflets.
South Korea's central government has vowed to ban such campaigns even through legislation, whereas anti Pyongyang activist groups have criticized the authorities' crackdown plans as unconstitutional.
As Fighters For a Free North Korea, an anti-Pyongyang civic group run by defectors from the North, has vowed to send about 1 million leaflets across the border in time for the June 25 anniversary of the Korean War, Gyeonggi police have significantly reinforced the number of its riot police deployed in the border areas since a week ago.
"The North's threats of military actions have become a reality after its explosion of the border liaison office, heightening tensions among residents in the province's border areas," a Gyeonggi government official said, adding the latest administrative order was inevitable. (Yonhap)