The Korea Herald


Ministry doubles down after court suspends revocation of defector group’s permit

By Ahn Sung-mi

Published : Aug. 19, 2020 - 13:17

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Unification Ministry (Yonhap) Unification Ministry (Yonhap)

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Wednesday that it will justify its decision to revoke the operating permit of a defector-led group that sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border, in response to a recent court ruling suspending the government action.

“We respect the judiciary’s decision, which approved suspension of the ministry’s action,” Yoh Sang-key, the ministry’s spokesperson, said during a regular briefing Wednesday. “During the main lawsuit, we will sufficiently explain why the decision to revoke the permit is justified.”

The Seoul Administrative Court on Monday accepted a request by Fighters for a Free North Korea, the civic organization headed by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, seeking a suspension of execution of the Unification Ministry’s decision last month to nullify the group’s license to operate.

In a written opinion, the court stated that the government’s decision to strip the group of its permit could cause Park “irreparable damage.” Suspending the government order would not significantly affect the public, based on the documents submitted by the ministry, it ruled.

The ruling is effective for a month, enabling the group to retain its permit temporarily.

Last week the court also ruled in favor of another defector group, Keunsaem, headed by Park’s younger brother Park Jung-oh, suspending the government’s decision to revoke its permit.

The two defector groups, both at the center of anti-Pyongyang leaflet campaigns here, had filed a lawsuit July 27 after the ministry decided to revoke their permits July 17. The government defended its decision, saying that sending anti-Pyongyang materials to the communist nation “gravely hindered” efforts toward unification and jeopardized the lives and safety of residents in border areas.

The government crackdown has been met with a severe backlash from human rights advocates, who assert that Seoul’s move violates the civic groups’ freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

By Ahn Sung-mi (