이재명 경기도지사가 지난 29일 ‘대북전단금지법(개정 남북관계발전법)’에 대한 국제사회 일부 우려의 목소리와 청문회 개최 추진 움직임에 대응해 미국 의회와 유엔(UN) 등에 공식서한을 발송했다.
이번 서한은 대북전단금지법의 필요성을 피력해 국제사회의 이해와 지지를 확대하기 위한 것으로, 미국 하원 톰 랜토스 인권위원회 공동위원장, 미 상·하원 외교위원회 각 위원장, 주한미국대사대리, 주한영국대사, 주한EU대표부대사 및 UN사무총장, UN북한인권특별보고관 등에게 전달한다.
이 지사는 서한을 통해 “대북전단금지법은 도민의 생명과 안전·재산권을 보호하기 위한 최소한의 장치이자 북측과 불필요한 군사적 긴장과 대결을 예방하고, 경색된 남북관계를 개선할 수 있는 평화적 수단”이라고 강조했다.
특히 이 지사는 2014년 연천군 주민 대피 사건, 올해 6월 의정부 대북전단 민간주택 낙하 사건 등 대북전단 살포로 인한 현실적 피해사례를 소개하며 “대북전단 살포는 긴장과 대결을 의도하는 행위이자 도민들의 생명과 안전을 실질적으로 위협하는 행위”라고 역설했다.
이 지사는 “유엔 북한인권특별보고관이 법 개정을 요구한 데 이어 미 의회 일부 의원들이 문제를 제기하며 청문회까지 개최하려는 움직임을 보이는 것은 대한민국 국민의 생명·안전·재산 보호를 위한 정당한 주권 행사를 가로막을 소지가 다분하다”고 우려의 말을 전했다.
또한 “대북전단금지법은 표현의 자유 보장을 전제로 오직 남북 합의를 위반하는 전단 살포 행위 등만을 최소한으로 금지하는 것”이라며 “유엔의 시민적·정치적 권리에 관한 규약 제19조에서도 표현의 자유가 타인의 권리와 공공질서 보호 등을 위해 제한될 수 있다고 규정하고 있다”고 강조했다.
이는 민주주의 국가로서 표현의 자유도 매우 중요한 가치이지만, 국민의 생명과 안전에 상당한 위험을 초래할 수 있는 경우 생명권·재산권과 충분한 균형과 조화를 이루며 행사돼야 함을 강조한 것으로 풀이된다.
끝으로 이 지사는 “이 법은 남북 간 신뢰를 회복하고, 한동안 멈추었던 남북관계를 재가동하는 첫걸음이 될 것”이라며 “한반도 평화와 세계 평화를 위해 한마음으로 함께해 주실 것을 호소한다”고 당부했다.
한편, 지난해 말 크리스 스미스 미 하원 톰 랜토스 인권위원회 공동위원장은 대북전단금지법 관련 청문회를 추진하겠다고 발표했으나, 개최 여부나 구체적 일정 등은 정해지지 않았다.
이 지사는 대북전단 살포로 인한 군사적 위험으로부터 도민의 생명과 안전 및 재산권을 보호하고자 긴급대응반 편성, 접경지 5개 시군 위험구역 설정 등 다각도의 노력을 기울여왔다. 특히 대북전단 살포 현장을 적극 봉쇄하는 등 선제적 조치를 취해 도민들로부터 큰 환영을 받았으며, 국회와 중앙정부에 법제화를 지속적으로 요청하는 등 대북전단금지법 통과에 적극 힘을 보태왔다.
영문 공개서한 전문
The Honorable Christopher H. Smith Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs United States of America
Dear Mr. Smith,
In my capacity as the Governor of Gyeonggi Province in the Republic of Korea, I would like to offer this letter regarding the new ‘North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act’ for your consideration.
Gyeonggi Province faces North Korea directly across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The new North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act, which has recently drawn international attention, is a minimal device for protecting the lives, safety and property of residents in the border area, and a peaceful means by which to prevent unnecessary military confrontations with the North as well as further strain on inter-Korean relations.
Nevertheless, some members of the international community have expressed concern about this new act, impelling me to write this letter so as to explain why the act is necessary from the perspective of Gyeonggi Province.
The North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act is essential for the protection of the lives, safety and property of Gyeonggi residents.
(1) The Republic of Korea is a model democracy in East Asia that advocates and guarantees the basic human rights of individuals through its Constitution. Freedom of expression is also guaranteed to the fullest extent possible as a basic human right. Any authority or exercise of public power can be criticized, and issues related to North Korea are no exception in this regard.
However, freedom of expression is not guaranteed without limit; if it entails significant risk to the lives, safety and property of people, it shall be exercised in due balance and congruity with rights to life, safety and property.
(2) As is widely known, the Korean Peninsula saw the deaths of innumerable civilians and the devastation of the entire country during the Korean War, which broke out in 1950. On July 27, 1953, the two Koreas agreed to national division through the Korean Armistice Agreement. The war, however, has not yet ended, and Gyeonggi Province lies on this dangerous dividing line.
Under such circumstances, the dissemination of anti-Pyongyang leaflets is a very sensitive act with military repercussions that could lead to war. Of particular note, recently distributed anti-Pyongyang leaflets have primarily mocked and attacked certain personages, and are in fact intended to fuel tension and confrontation between the two Koreas.
When the North fired artillery rounds at anti-Pyongyang leaflet balloons released in October of 2014, the shells fell near Yeoncheon County in Gyeonggi Province, drawing counter-fire from the South. In February of 2016, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea acknowledged in a ruling the cause-and-effect relationship between the 2014 release of anti-Pyongyang leaflets and the threat to the lives and safety of residents, saying, “The spread of anti-Pyongyang leaflets poses a pressing and serious risk to the lives and bodies of people living in and around the area.”
In June of this year, a bundle of anti-Pyongyang leaflets released by a North Korean defector group fell on a private residence in Uijeongbu City of Gyeonggi Province, resulting in severe damage to the roof of the structure. Thus, not only were the property rights of our residents violated, but so too was the potential for innocent casualties heightened.
Accordingly, the distribution of anti-Pyongyang leaflets in areas near the border, such as Paju City and Yeoncheon County, is an act that precipitates a real threat to the lives, safety and property of Gyeonggi residents. Whenever such leaflets are released, our residents suffer fear and trepidation, especially whenever the leaflets fall in the South and not the North, plagued by worries that the North will launch a counterattack that will impact their homes.
It is in this context that all residents of Gyeonggi Province welcome the passage of this recent act prohibiting the release of such leaflets.
(3) The North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act, recently passed by the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, is the result of a sad reality with the continuing pain of national division. The South and North have been engulfed in military conflict due to the anti-Pyongyang leaflets, and our residents are forced to suffer constant and unnecessary confrontations because of those who want to release such leaflets. Thus, the tragedy of the Korean Peninsula continues.
In this matter, some U.S. representatives have raised the issue of the North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights has even requested the amendment of the act. These responses come without consideration of the aforementioned and sorrowful realities of the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, they have the high likelihood of violating the rightful and essential exercise of sovereignty needed to protect the lives, safety and property of South Koreans.
Is there anything more important than human life and peace?
The North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act serves to protect the lives, safety and property of the people living in the border area of Gyeonggi Province from the threats entailed by the release of leaflets. The North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act only constrains those actions that violate agreements between the South and North, including the release of leaflets, while advocating and guaranteeing freedom of expression for all people.
According to Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the United Nations, freedom of expression can be subject to restrictions by law if required to ensure the rights of others, protect national security, or safeguard public order.
It is an indispensable law that protects the lives, safety, and property of our residents. I believe that you, Excellency, who rigorously pursues international peace and human rights, will fully comprehend this situation in Gyeonggi Province.
(4) The North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act functions beyond being a minimal device to protect the lives, safety and property of the people of Gyeonggi Province, to restore trust between the Koreas through limited prohibition of acts that violate agreements between the South and North, thereby serving as a starting point for the resumption of long-stalled inter-Korean relations.
At the crossroads of either deepening the crisis and confrontation between the two Koreas by releasing leaflets or halting mutual recrimination to resolve conflicts peacefully, we have chosen the latter path for peace. Gyeonggi Province welcomes the North Korea Leaflet Prohibition Act and appeals to you, Excellency, to join us in the protection of the lives, safety and property of the people of Gyeonggi Province, thus advancing the cause of peace on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the world.
(5) Please accept sincerest congratulations on the launch of the Biden administration. We look forward to reciprocal and interactive relations between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Concurrently, please recall that the North Korea Leaflets Prohibition Act is not about freedom of expression, but instead about war and peace between people living in a divided country.
Lee Jaemyung Governor of Gyeonggi Province Republic of Korea