South Korean ministry officials say the country will allow access to North Korean broadcasts to encourage Pyongyang to take similar steps and prepare for future unification.
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.
In a policy report to new President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it will gradually open the door for North Korean broadcasts, media and publications.
It said the move aims to boost mutual understanding, restore the Korean national identity and prepare for a future unification.
Ministry officials said South Korea will start by allowing access to North Korean broadcasts to try to encourage North Korea to take similar steps.
Jeon Young-sun, a research professor at Seoul’s Konkuk University, said North Korea is unlikely to reciprocate because the flow of South Korean culture and media content would pose “a really huge threat to” its authoritarian leadership.
The ministry refused to provide further details, saying the plans are still being discussed with relevant authorities in South Korea.
Relations between the two Koreas remain strained over North Korea’s torrid run of missile tests this year.
Yoon, a conservative, has said he would take a tougher stance on North Korean provocations, though he said he has “an audacious plan” to improve the North's economy if it abandons its nuclear weapons.
Blocking outside information
Divided along the world’s most heavily fortified border since 1948, the two Koreas prohibit their citizens from visiting each other’s territory.
They also ban exchanging phone calls, emails and letters, and they block access to each other’s websites and TV stations.
North Korea also strictly restricts its citizens’ access to outside information, though many defectors have said they watched smuggled South Korean TV programs while living in the North.
In 2014, North Korean troops opened fire when South Korean activists launched balloons carrying USB sticks containing information about the outside world and leaflets critical of the Kim family toward their territory.
Despite the North’s likely reluctance to reciprocate the media lift, 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.
Jeon said that has increased the danger of acquiring distorted information on North Korea.