South Korea plans to lift its decades-long ban on public access to North Korean television, newspapers and other publications as part of its efforts to promote mutual understanding between the rivals, officials said on Friday, despite animosity over North Korea’s recent missile tests.
Divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border since 1948, the two Koreas prohibit their citizens from visiting each other’s territory and exchanging phone calls, e-mails and letters, and block access to each other’s Web sites and TV stations.
In a policy report to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said it would gradually open the door for North Korean broadcasts and publications to boost mutual understanding, restore a Korean national identity and prepare for a possible unification.
Ministry officials said South Korea would start the process by allowing access to North Korean broadcasts to encourage North Korea to take similar steps.
The ministry refused to provide further details, saying that the plans are still being discussed with authorities in South Korea.
North Korea is unlikely to reciprocate because the flow of South Korean cultural and media content would pose “a really huge threat” to its authoritarian leadership, said Jeon Young-sun, a research professor at Seoul’s Konkuk University.
However, Jeon said South Korea needs to ease its ban on North Korean media because the restrictions have led to dependence on foreigners and other governments to gather North Korea-related information.
That has increased the danger of acquiring distorted information on North Korea, Jeon added.
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