As South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Washington on Wednesday for his first meeting with US President Barack Obama, North Korean defectors and activists urged Joe Biden to increase pressure on North Korea over human rights.
Moon will arrive in Washington on Thursday for a four-day visit that will include meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders, as well as a visit to SK Innovation’s (096770.KS) battery plant in Georgia.
Moon wants to use the summit to stress the importance of restarting long-stalled denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea, which has harmed inter-Korean relations.
In what critics called an effort to improve relations with the North, Moon’s government this year introduced a law banning defectors and activists from launching anti-Pyongyang leaflets into the reclusive country.
Activists and defectors called for Biden to swiftly appoint a special envoy on North Korean human rights and to stand up for their freedom of speech in South Korea.
“We have evidence that North Koreans are waiting for those leaflets to get to them, and that the North Korean regime is in fear of loose leaflets getting to the people,” said Park Sang-hak, who was investigated by police last week on charges of breaching the ban.
Activists had been sending the leaflets, along with food, medication, $1 bills, mini radios, and USB sticks containing South Korean news and dramas, to ordinary North Koreans for decades to raise awareness about the regime’s tyranny and human rights violations.
Pyongyang has long condemned the activity, warning Moon that if he doesn’t, ties will enter the “worst process.”
Shin Hee-seok, a legal analyst at the Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group, called for Biden to raise the issue with Moon and at the United Nations, which he said would send a strong message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“It’d be very helpful if the Biden administration actually comes out and says that such measures are not really helpful for inter-Korean negotiations,” Shin said. “Perhaps it might actually provide a very strong impetus for the Moon government to reconsider many of its policies as well.”