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Defying government ban, defectors group launches anti-NK leaflets

Police officers collect a balloon containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets at a mountain in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Police officers collect a balloon containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets at a mountain in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

A group of North Korean defectors claimed Tuesday it had sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border, continuing an activity that has enraged the North regime, which cited it as the reason it wrecked a liaison office with the South last week.

The launch was also in defiance of a ban by South Korean authorities on the cross-border propaganda campaign.

“The six members of Fighters for a Free North Korea sent anti-North Korea leaflets between 11 p.m. and midnight on Monday in Paju, Gyeonggi Province,” the civic group’s head Park Sang-hak said in a statement.

Park said the group sent 20 large helium-filled balloons, carrying 500,000 leaflets titled “The truth of the Korean War atrocity,” 2,000 $1 bills, 1,000 SD cards and 500 booklets across the border. He said they sent the flyers in a covert mission at night with relatively new members, to avoid police detection.

The police on Tuesday said that one of the balloons used for the leaflet campaign was found in Hongcheon County in eastern Gangwon Province, some 100 kilometers east of the location where the group claimed to have launched the balloons.

The balloon was attached to a bundle of leaflets and a large banner with pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his influential sister Kim Yo-jong, as well as their grandfather and regime founder Kim Il-sung, and a slogan that calls on the North Korean people to rise up against the Kim family.

The Unification Ministry, however, denied Park had launched leaflets across the border, saying the leaflets is believed to not have reached the North, considering the wind movement and based on further investigation.

The ministry vowed to take strict action against Park and his group for continuing the launch and intentionally spreading false information that raised tension between the two Koreas and threatened lives and safety of residents in the border area.

Park wasn’t available for further comment.

“Leaflets, whether from the North or the South, do no good for the development of inter-Korean relations, and the two leaders agreed in the Panmunjom Declaration to halt leafleting,” a ministry official said, referring to a 2018 inter-Korean summit agreement between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“From this standpoint, the government believes the unproductive distribution of leaflets must be halted immediately, to improve inter-Korean relations and promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Seoul has warned of a “thorough crackdown” against campaigners sending anti-North leaflets, and vowed to enact legislation to ban such activities. Earlier this month, the Unification Ministry had also filed a police complaint against two defector groups, including the NNFK, for violating inter-Korean cooperation and exchange law.

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung on Tuesday said he has requested police to investigate four defector groups that sent propaganda leaflets and other materials to the North, including the NNFK, on suspicion of fraud and misappropriation, after claims that the donations were used for different purposes.

Meanwhile, North Korea said it is pushing ahead with the planned distribution of anti-Seoul leaflets across the border. On Monday, it claimed to have printed 12 million flyers to be scattered “deep inside South Korea” via 3,000 balloons.

North Korea in recent days has ratcheted up its warnings against the South in retaliation for the actions of defector groups sending leaflets criticizing the communist regime and the ruling Kim family.

Last week, the North blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in its border city Kaesong, which served as a de facto embassy between the two Koreas. It warned of further action, including scrapping the 2018 agreement meant to ease military tensions at the border.

The North set up around 20 propaganda loudspeakers along the inter-Korean border on Tuesday, which had been removed in May 2018 after agreeing to stop all hostile activities in the Panmunjom Declaration.

Seoul said it is mulling how to respond to Pyongyang’s apparent ratcheting up of psychological warfare.

The Defense Ministry said the South Korean military was keeping a close eye on the North’s movements and remains ready to respond to any provocations.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)

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