Summary of inter-Korean news this week

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) — The following is a summary of inter-Korean news this week.

Int’l human rights group voices concerns over Seoul’s ban on sending of anti-N.K. leaflets

SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) — An international human rights group has raised concerns over South Korea’s recently legislated ban on anti-North Korea leaflets, taking issue with its lack of clarity and possibly broad scope of prohibition.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization, made the claim in an opinion it sent to Seoul’s unification ministry.

In December, South Korea’s parliament passed a bill penalizing the sending of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets into the North for the safety of people in border regions where such leafleting usually took place.

Defectors to sue unification minister for alleged defamation

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) — Four North Korean defectors plan to sue Unification Minister Lee In-young for defamation over his recent remarks casting doubt over what defectors say about the North’s human rights situation, a local activist group said Sunday.

Earlier this month, Lee said during a press conference with foreign media reporters that human rights-related testimonies of North Korean defectors “lack a process of checking and verifying” their validity.

Four defectors plan to file a lawsuit against Lee on Monday for alleged defamation, according to Dream Makers for North Korea. They claimed that Lee has deemed testimonials by North Korean defectors as “untrustworthy lies.”

Unification ministry says defectors’ testimonies ‘valuable records’ on N.K. human rights situation

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) — The unification ministry said Monday that testimonies of North Korean defectors are “valuable records” that shed light on the human rights situation in their reclusive home country.

On Sunday, four North Korean defectors said they will file a lawsuit against Unification Minister Lee In-young for defamation over his recent remarks casting doubt over what defectors said about human rights situations in the North.

They claim that Lee has deemed defectors’ testimonies as “untrustworthy lies,” apparently taking issue with his recent remarks during a press conference with foreign journalists that their words lack a process of verification.

Unification minister calls for early resumption of inter-Korean dictionary project

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) — Unification Minister Lee In-young called Monday for efforts to restart a long-suspended project to compile a unified Korean-language dictionary with North Korea, saying it will be a “firm step” toward unification.

Lee made the remarks during his virtual speech at a forum on the inter-Korean project, urging for the early resumption of the project on the publication of a common Korean-language dictionary that began in 2005 as part of efforts to overcome language barriers between the two Koreas.

“We hope for the opening of the 26th inter-Korean meeting on the ‘Gyeoreomal-keunsajeon’ and the early resumption and completion of the project that is currently at 81 percent,” Lee said.

Unification minister renews calls for inter-Korean response system against infectious diseases

SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) — Unification Minister Lee In-young renewed calls Tuesday for building a joint response system with North Korea against infectious diseases to better cope with growing threats from global pandemics.

Lee made the remarks during a seminar on inter-Korean cooperation in public health, noting that creating a joint system does not necessarily mean providing unilateral help to Pyongyang but is also a way of protecting “oneself and one’s family.”

“South and North Korea must resume building a response system against infectious diseases and exchange information, as agreed by the two sides” in inter-Korean summits in 2018, Lee said.

Unification minister renews calls for individual tourism to N.K.

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) — Unification Minister Lee In-young said Thursday the government will push to resume long-suspended tours to North Korea on an individual basis as soon as the pandemic eases, saying it is “the best way to break the boundaries” between South and North Koreans.

“There are still many South Koreans who wish to visit Mount Kumgang though it has been over 10 years since its suspension,” he said, pointing out that such exchanges can help restore “national homogeneity.”

“The government will prepare various matters with the aim of resuming individual tours to Mount Kumgang the foremost when the COVID-19 situation eases,” he said.

S. Korea yet to finalize position on U.N. resolution on N.K. human rights: ministry

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) — South Korea has yet to finalize its position on this year’s U.N. resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses, but it will continue communication with the United States and others on the matter, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

The ministry’s comment came as Seoul’s stance on co-sponsoring the resolution drew attention this week after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support for the U.N. Human Rights Council’s role in addressing human rights violations by North Korea in his speech to the council’s session.

“Our government’s position in relation to the resolution has yet to be finalized. But with regard to the issue, we will continue to communicate with the international community, including the United States,” ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said in a press briefing.