This June 14, 2019 file photo shows the Republic of Korea's army soldiers patrolling the DMZ Peace Trail in the Demilitarized Zone in Goseong, ROK. (AHN YOUNG-JOON / AP)
SEOUL - The Republic of Korea’s (ROK) parliament passed a bill on Monday to ban the launching of propaganda leaflets into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Groups run by DPRK defectors and other campaigners have for decades sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets - alongside food, medicine, US$1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks containing ROK news and dramas - into DPRK, usually by balloon or in bottles on border rivers. DPRK has long denounced the practice.
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The amendment to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act bars any scattering of printed materials, goods, money and other items of value across the heavily fortified frontier. It also restricts loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts
The amendment to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act bars any scattering of printed materials, goods, money and other items of value across the heavily fortified frontier. It also restricts loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts.
Any violation of the law, which will take effect in three months, is punishable by up to three years in prison or 30 million won (US$27,500) in fines.
The change was approved despite filibuster efforts from opposition lawmakers to block the super-majority of the ruling party of ROK President Moon Jae-in, who is keen to improve cross-border ties.
The bill was introduced in June by ruling party lawmakers after Kim Yo-jong, the sister of DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un, warned against "defectors from the north" scattering anti-DPRK leaflets in frointline areas.
More than 20 defector and rights groups in ROK vowed to challenge the law’s constitutionality.
READ MORE: ROK halts operation of 2 anti-DPRK groups over leafleting
Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the bill was a “minimal effort to protect the lives and safety of residents in border regions”.
HONG KONG NEWS