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Home arrow Asia-Pacific arrow US rights activist, defectors scatter anti-Pyongyang leaflets
US rights activist, defectors scatter anti-Pyongyang leaflets PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 11 October 2008
A US activist and North Korean defectors said they floated tens of thousands of leaflets into the hardline communist state yesterday in defiance of appeals from South Korea's government and companies.
Suzanne Scholte, president of the Defense Forum Foundation, and members of the Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK) released 10 large balloons loaded with 100,000 leaflets from a fishing boat near the border in the Yellow Sea.
"The leaflet criticises Kim Jong-Il's dictatorship and his Songun (military-first) policy and carries information about the free world," FFNK president Park Sang-Hak told journalists.
"We've been planning this event for the past month. The wind is now blowing to the north and I believe the leaflets will reach North Koreans," he said.
The North on Friday marks the anniversary of its ruling communist party.
Scholte, who won this year's Seoul Peace Prize for her efforts to improve North Korea's human rights, said it was important to let North Koreans know about the outside world from which they are kept isolated.
"There is nothing more powerful than North Korean defectors sending a message of truth to North Koreans," she told AFP by phone.
"It's really important for those of us living in the free world to use every means possible to communicate with North Koreans our desire for them to be free."
The action came despite appeals to stop spreading leaflets from Seoul's Unification Ministry and 76 South Korean business firms operating in a joint industrial zone in the North's Kaesong city near the inter-Korean border.
Pyongyang has warned that South Korea must stop the leaflets or risk expulsion from the joint industrial zone.
"First of all, I don't think we need to worry about angering (North Korea's leader) Kim Jong-Il. What we need to worry about is failing to uphold the human rights of North Korean people," Scholte said.
The FFNK has been sending some 1.5 million leaflets to the North every year since 2004. They are financially backed by Koreans living in the United States or US human rights activists.
North and South Korea routinely used planes and balloons to bombard each other with propaganda during the Cold War era, but the two governments agreed to halt the practice at a 2000 peace summit.
However, South Korean Christians and North Korean defectors have continued to launch balloons carrying leaflets. Small short-wave radios are also sometimes floated over the heavily fortified border, along with one-dollar bills.
At military talks last week, the North threatened to evict all South Korean staff from Kaesong unless Seoul stops the leaflets criticising Kim.
North Korea also threatened to ban South Koreans from the Mount Kumgang resort, another joint project.
Seoul has halted visits to Mount Kumgang since the July 11 killing of a housewife who strayed into a poorly marked restricted military zone.
Relations have been especially frosty since Seoul's conservative government came to power in February.

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