Seoul ends North Korean media blackout

South Korea is set to end its decades-long ban barring citizens from accessing Pyongyang’s media

South Korea is preparing to allow its citizens access to North Korean media, ending a Cold War-era ban on watching what Pyongyang’s broadcasters and newspapers say.

Nearly three months after delivering a policy report to President Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s Unification Ministry is working with government agencies and lawmakers to craft the legislation and rules needed to end black- out of North Korean media, the Korea Times reported on Tuesday. .

Access will be opened up gradually, starting with allowing South Koreans to watch content broadcast in North Korea, such as the state-run Korea Central News Agency, Unification Minister Kwon Young said on Friday. – to the members of the National Assembly. Other media, such as the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, will follow later.

Kwon added that it has not been determined whether citizens should be allowed to visit North Korean government-run websites. The ban dates back to South Korea’s National Security Law, passed in 1948 when newly divided nascent nations began blocking their citizens from cross-border communications and media access. For example, when North Korea sent propaganda flyers across the heavily fortified border in the 1960s and 1970s, South Koreans who found the messages were required to report them to government authorities.

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The idea behind ending the ban is to promote freedom of expression and mutual understanding. However, observers such as Konkuk University professor Jeon Young-sun said Pyongyang is unlikely to reciprocate. Giving North Koreans unfettered access to South Korean cultural and media content would be problematic “a really huge threat” to Kim Jong-un’s regime, Jeon told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Yoon, who took office in May, is likely to find support for the anti-censorship initiative of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, which holds the majority of seats in the National Assembly. The party has long sought to revise or abolish the national security law.

South Koreans are already able to circumvent the ban by using VPNs or proxy servers to exploit North Korean websites. Some North Korean content is also posted on YouTube.

The two countries technically remain at war, as their devastating 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice rather than a peace agreement. Tensions have escalated in recent months, with Seoul carrying out joint military exercises with US forces and Pyongyang carrying out a series of missile tests. Yoon offered in August to provide economic aid to North Korea in return for Pyongyang canceling its nuclear weapons program, but Kim ruled out peace talks.

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