The government wants to drastically simplify procedures for meetings between North and South Koreans so that it is no longer technically a crime to meet in a third country without permission.
It will also allow South Koreans to keep in touch with relatives in the North without having to report to authorities.
Currently it is mandatory to report any meetings, accidental or not, with North Koreans to the authorities. Under the new policy, the government can also not say no if anyone wants to engage in “cross-border exchange and cooperation.”
The Unification Ministry on Tuesday said the government will seek the relevant revisions to “provide more leeway for cross-border contacts.” The government has embarked on a quixotic campaign to facilitate cross-border exchange and cooperation even as international sanctions make them impossible and North Korea has spurned all overtures.
Critics here warned that easing such restrictions could endanger South Koreans if they are approached overseas by North Korean agents or even abducted, especially those helping North Korean defectors in northeastern China.
The revision will abolish the provision that that the unification minister can refuse applications for cross-border contact if “it is likely to harm national security, public order or public welfare.”
A ministry official said that there is already a similar provision banning contacts with intent harmful to the democratic order in the decades-old National Security Law.
Local municipalities will be added to a list of entities that can carry out cross-border projects that already includes charities and businesses.
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