Members of the Paektu Protection Squad, which was created to welcome North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Seoul, last week visited the offices of the Unification Media Group (UMG) to demand that a regular column written by former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong Ho for Daily NK be cancelled.
Daily NK and UMG have jointly published Thae’s column in print and video formats every week from July, with the latest being published earlier this month.
The two members of the Paekdu Protection Squad visited the office with pickets and told Daily NK staff that “the column is interrupting the period when the Republic of Korea must head towards peace and unification” and that they “came here to shut down Thae Yong Ho’s column.”
A Daily NK staff member calmly responded to them that “the publication of columns and the production of videos is the inherent right of the media and attempting to restrict that right is violating the freedom of the press.” One of the protesters responded to that statement by saying, “There are limits to the freedom of the press.”
The Paektu Protection Squad’s leaflet, which was handed over to Daily NK representatives, included photos of Thae, President Donald Trump, former Freedom Korea Party head Hong Joon Pyo, Fighters for Free North Korea head Park Sang Hak and six others, and included a promise to meet each of them with the intention to ensure that they won’t interrupt the holding of an inter-Korean summit in Seoul.
“The anti-unification forces that have fed off and maintain a vested interest in division are making ridiculous statements and actions that are blocking the road to peace and unification,” the leaflet alleges. “America’s violation of Korean sovereignty and involvement in Korean internal affairs clearly goes against the principles of national independence and self-determination agreed upon in the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration.”
Lee Kwang Baek, who now heads UMG and was formerly a key member of a left-wing organization called National Liberation (NL), noted that “their arguments are almost the same as those put forth by NL, which saw Juche ideology as their ruling ideology.”
“It’s unfortunate that young people [today] are still taken in and being impacted by the blind support toward North Korea espoused by some far-left Juche supporters of the 1980s,” he said.
“Juche supporters at the time believed that America was the source of division and was preventing unification from happening and that South Korea was a colony of the US,” Lee explained, further noting that the Paektu Protection Squad’s ideas toward the US mirror those espoused by Juche supporters in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Thae Yong Ho is presenting a rational plan to bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula by raising awareness of the issues in North Korea and analyzing its foreign policy. It’s unfortunate that he’s being viewed as an opponent to peace and unification by some,” Lee added.
On November 29, the Paektu Protection Squad posted on its Facebook page five emails it had sent to Thae. The emails contain various statements including, “North Korea is better than South Korea because it’s at least working so that all people can live equally,” “We’re eager to see how much more you [Thae Yong Ho] will rave wildly” and one that says that Thae “must not interrupt independent unification [or else].”