Freedom of speech in question for new South Korean ruling

The issue of free speech has been brought into question due to a new South Korean ruling that will prevent activists from flying balloons over the border to North Korea. The balloons, which often are printed with messages, may be hung with pictures of North Korean defectors, or contain usb sticks or memory cards with outside information on the world and global news updates, are being considered antagonising propaganda in the new ruling. 

The ban will pass through South Korea’s government as a regularity before coming into effect in three months time, in March 2021. It will serve violators of the regulations with up to three years imprisonment or a 30 million won fine (roughly $36,500 Australian dollars) according to Aljazeera. 

Protests against the regulations cite issues concerning the freedom of speech in South Korea as a main cause of concern. The activists involved in such campaigns often include items of medicine and food to float with the balloons, and are upset that their humanitarian efforts are not being recognised. 

Government officials have countered that such activities put those living near the border at risk from North Korean officials who could consider them complicit. On Monday 14th December 2020 the regulations were made into law through the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act by the South Korean government. The act seeks to improve ties between North and South Korea whose border has been long contested and heavily guarded. It comes from current South Korean leader President Moon Jae-in who has long been known to want to improve relations between the two currently in-conflict countries. 

The constitutional change seeks to prevent the scattering of any printed materials, valuable goods or money across the border, though is seen by many as being too pandering to the North Korean dictatorship. Activists in South Korea have vowed to continue with their campaigns to share information and resources with North Korea via the method of balloon.