Korean Constitutional Court Strikes Down North Korean Anti-Pamphlet Law

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea, a court I worked for six years, struck down a law from 2020 that criminalized the spreading of anti-Northern Korean pamphlets into North Korea by balloon and other means. The law imposed a potential penalty of up to three years in jail or a fine of up to KRW 30,000,000 (US$ 22,000).

The Court voted 7-2 to invalidate the law, but noted that the Korean government can regulate the sending of pamphlets to the North if it endangers Korean residents living near the border, however, protestors engaged in the sending of leaflets should not be punished for actions of the North Korean government.

The Court noted in its ruling that the law is an excessive and too broad of a limitation on the freedom of expression since the law “mobilizes the state power of punishment when that should be a last resort.”

The Associated Press noted that:

“Park and other defectors from the North for years have used huge helium-filled balloons to launch leaflets criticizing the leadership of North Korea’s authoritarian ruler, Kim Jong Un, his nuclear weapons ambitions and the country’s dismal human rights record. The leaflets are often packaged with U.S. dollar bills. and USB sticks containing information about world news.

In his latest launch, Park said he flew 20 balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets and 1,000 USB sticks from a South Korean border island last Wednesday.”

Associated Press

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