July 15, 2020
His Excellency Moon Jae-in
President of the Republic of Korea
c/o Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the United States
2450 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington DC 20008
Re: Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem
Recently our Coalition learned that your government has announced its plans to revoke operation permits for North Korean human rights organizations: Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem. It is our belief that South Korea should protect, rather than target, human rights activities such as distributing anti-regime leaflets through balloons to the people of North Korea, as an act of free expression. We strongly urge you to reconsider this course of action and instead focus on advancing human rights and freedom in both South Korea and North Korea.
Both South Korea and North Korea are state parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which includes the right to impart information by any means, including across frontiers. This is a right that must be upheld. Human rights activists, including defectors, are protected by the right to freedom of expression, which includes the sending of leaflets to North Korea. Further, this right protects the ability of North Koreans to receive information, such as the information provided to them by the leaflets sent by human rights activists and organizations in South Korea.
Revocation of these permits would continue an alarming trend of your government’s intimidation of defector human rights activists and organizations. Fighters for a Free North Korea, Keunsaem, their members, and their leaders – Park Sang Hak and Park Jung Oh – have been repeatedly harassed by the South Korean government. Such harassment includes police surveillance, the filing of unwarranted criminal complaints, as well as government searches of activist’s cars, office, and personal effects. Such searches have occurred under false pretexts of possible breaches of donation laws and the High-Pressure Gas Safety Control Act. In addition to the planned revocation of operation permits, each of these actions are an alarming threat to the free expression rights of these South Korean citizens and their associated organizations. We urge your government to cease these actions of intimidation which seek to silence their freedom of expression.
If the South Korean government decides to continue its course of violating the rights of human rights activists and organizations, it will send a troubling signal to the global community and erode your country’s decades of progress for freedom and human rights.
South Korea has committed itself to human rights and the freedom of expression through the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We urge you to honor this commitment by reconsidering any decision to revoke the operation permits for human rights organizations and ceasing the targeting of these groups through government action.
Suzanne Scholte, Chairman
Pastor Heemoon Lee, Vice Chairman
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Vice Chairman
Jason West, Vice Chairman
Ann Buwalda, Treasurer
Sue Yoon Logan, Administrator
Teresa Ost, Secretary