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Defector groups continue to send anti-North leaflets despite threats

Defector groups Wednesday pledged to continue flying propaganda leaflets across the border despite North Korea’s recent threat of “direct firing” at the South’s psychological warfare sites.

“The empty threats from the North have repeated over the past four years. There is nothing special this time as well,” said Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector and head of the Fighters for Free North Korea.

“In a show of protest, we will send the leaflets at the Imjingak Pavillion on an announced day ― our usual way of doing it,” he said.

South Korean government officials made it clear they would not step in to deter the groups from flying the anti-North leaflets.

“Inter-Korean relations have changed after the North’s attack on the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March last year,” Unification Ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo said Wednesday.

“The groups’ activities are not against the law, so the ministry has not asked them to refrain from sending the leaflets and has no plans to do so.”

Park’s group has sent 3 million propaganda leaflets toward the North over the years. The fliers included U.S. dollar bills and anti-North DVDs and are wrapped with plastic against potential rain.

He said in another interview that it costs 4-5 million won ($3,500-4,400) each time he sends 200,000 fliers.

The group plan to fly balloons carrying anti-North leaflets next Monday when the wind direction could shift north.

Along with the ongoing democracy movements in the Middle East, the fliers would contain news that Kim Jong-chul, the second son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, enjoyed an Eric Clapton concert in Singapore on Feb. 14, the group said.

Other groups consisting of North Korean defectors also pledged to proceed with spreading the leaflets across the border.

However, some of them disagreed with a publicized event like the one at Imjingak, a tourism pavilion located just south of the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjeom.

“I’m concerned about the noisy events,” said Lee Min-bok, a North Korean defector who heads a Christian group of refugees like himself.

“That can provide an excuse for North Korea’s other provocations. An unfortunate accident could cause a huge number of casualties especially in places like the Imjin Pavilion,” he said.

Lee, who sent nearly 8,000 leaflets across the border last year alone, added that the impact of sending the balloons at the Imjin Pavillion would be insignificant as they are likely to end up in the south side of the Military Demarcation Line.

A civic group member also said, “It seems OK to hold a public event with an aim to attract the public’s interest. However, it should not be the main goal. Sending the leaflets is literally a psychological attack.”

In early February, the South Korean military began sending supplies such as clothes, medicine, radios and food in balloons to North Korea for the first time since the two Koreas agreed in 2004 to halt propaganda activities in the border areas.

The Defense Ministry also said it is the government’s position to not interfere with nongovernmental groups’ leaflet campaign.

“We cannot comment on whether or not our military is waging psychological warfare against the North. It wouldn’t be psychological warfare if it is made public,” a senior military official said, refusing to be named.

“As for the nongovernmental groups’ activities, it isn’t something we can interfere in.”

Presidential spokesperson Kim Hee-jung declined to comment on the anti-North leaflet campaigns.

The presidential office reportedly reprimanded the military for disclosing information on its anti-North psychological warfare to politicians last week.

Tension was heightened on the Korean Peninsular over the weekend after Pyongyang reiterated its threat to strike Seoul’s psychological warfare apparatus on the border.

“Should the anti-Korean psychological warfare continue, our army will directly fire at the (Imjin) Pavilion and other origins of the psychological warfare to destroy them under the principle of self-defense,” a North Korean military official told the official Korean Central News Agency.

“The traitors’ group in South Korea must stop the anti-North psychological warfare at once, squarely seeing the seriousness of the prevailing situation.”

By Lee Ji-yoon  (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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