South Korea To Review North Korean Refugee Activist Groups

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The South Korean government says it has begun a controversial audit of North Korean refugee groups based in South Korea, a Defence Ministry spokesperson announced in Seoul on Wednesday.

Of the Twenty-five organsations, of which 13 are led by dissidents, will initially be reviewed with the aim of verifying whether the activists are working according to their declared purposes, she said.

The groups are threatened with sanctions in case of irregularities.

The refugee organisations criticised the step as an attempt to keep them quiet, a claim that has been supported by international human rights organisations.

Human Rights Watch at the end of July accused the South Korean government of trying to intimidate North Korean refugee organisations.

The ministry revoked the registration licenses of the two refugee groups Fighters for a Free North Korea and Kuensaem in July.

The groups were seriously hindering the unification policy of the government by distributing leaflets, among other things as well as jeopardizing the security of border residents and increasing tensions on the peninsula, the ministry claimed.

The activists had annoyed the North by flying 500,000 leaflets across the border with gas balloons.

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Pyongyang subsequently shut down communication channels with the South and blew up a liaison office near the border, though it later decided to refrain from military action.

The frequent balloon launches, which are also controversial in South Korea, call on the North Koreans to overthrow the communist leadership. (dpa/NAN)

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