Pyongyang renews threat to strike South’s psychological warfare ‘facilities’
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Thursday that it would not intervene in a plan by North Korean defectors here to fly anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North, a day after the communist state renewed its threat to strike South Korea’s propaganda apparatus.
“There is nothing special the government can say about the activities by civic groups. We have no plan to call on them to refrain (from sending anti-North propaganda leaflets),” a ministry official told reporters, refusing to be named.
“In the past, we had requested that the groups refrain from flying them, in light of the possible impact on inter-Korean ties. However, since March 26 when the Cheonan sank after an attack (by the North), we have not made any special request.”
Referring to the threat by the North on Wednesday, the official stressed that the act of ratcheting up tensions with such warnings of military strikes would not help bilateral ties.
In an interview with the official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified North Korean commander warned his soldiers are ready to fire at South Korean facilities for psychological warfare.
“Our troops across the entire frontline areas are ready at all times to directly aim at and strike the strongholds of psychological warfare and move into actual action at a time we think is proper,” he was quoted as saying.
“From a military perspective, psychological warfare is an act of war. If the South does not want to see the repeat of the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, it should stop all psychological warfare activities immediately and behave discreetly.”
Some 20 groups of North Korean defectors plan to send some 200,000 leaflets and memory sticks that contain videos, designed to enlighten North Koreans living in the tightly-controlled society with little access to outside information, on Friday and Saturday.
The event was organized to mark the first anniversary of the sinking of the corvette Cheonan. The 1,200-ton warship carrying 104 sailors sank near the western inter-Korean sea border after an unprovoked torpedo attack. The North denies its role in the sinking that killed 46 sailors.
Some eight months after the tragic incident, the belligerent state launched an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, one of the five vulnerable northwestern frontline islands, killing two marines and two civilians.
Park Sang-hak, chief of the Fighters for Free North Korea, which leads the upcoming leaflet-sending event, said that he and other North Korean defectors would not be intimidated.
“We will carry out the plan to send the leaflets as scheduled. The threat from the North is just a bluff and we don’t need to be intimidated by that,” he told reporters.
The leaflets include messages pinpointing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as the culprit for the sinking that killed 46 sailors; criticizing the lavish lifestyle of his three sons; and comparing Kim with other autocratic rulers such as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The South Korean military has also sent to the North a series of necessities such as tooth brushes and pastes, medicine, office supplies and instant rice since early last month as part of its psychological warfare.
North Korea has been agitated by such propaganda activities as it could pose an obstacle in maintaining its authoritarian rule over its hungry people and facilitating the second hereditary power succession.
“Such leaflets attack the very hearts of the weak points the North Korean regime wants to hide from its people. If they are delivered to ordinary citizens, it could be very burdensome to maintain the regime,” Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.
“The North appears to be seeking to stop such psychological warfare through such repeated threats and warnings, thinking that if it just sits still, things will worsen.”
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org