Thursday, November 20, 2008

More propaganda leaflets float into North Korea

South Korean activists, many defectors from North Korea, sent propaganda leaflets over the border Thursday into North Korea, ignoring their own government's pleas to stop the practice and threats from the North to sever relations if it continues.

North Korea announced last week it would ban border crossings starting Dec. 1, citing the South Korean government's refusal to clamp down on "confrontational" activities, including the leafletting.

South Korean officials implored activists Wednesday to stop sending the leaflets critical of leader Kim Jong Il and his authoritarian regime, saying the campaign threatens to heighten tensions with the North. However, activists went ahead Thursday and sent about 10 huge helium balloons — each stuffed with some 10,000 flyers — across the heavily fortified border.

Thursday's leaflets criticize Kim's autocratic rule and call on North Koreans to rise up against his regime. "Your 'great' leader's last days are approaching. The dictator has collapsed from illness," one leaflet says.

The activists — many of them NK defectors — say their hope is that North Koreans will pick up the leaflets printed on vinyl paper and realize their government has been lying to them. The leaflets are among the most direct means of reaching ordinary North Koreans since their access to the outside world is strictly regulated by the government. Several defectors to the South have said the flyers prompted them to plot their defections.

The two Koreas agreed in 2004 to end decades of propaganda warfare — including broadcasts by radio and loudspeaker and messages printed on leaflets. However, the South Korean government says it cannot ban people from sending the leaflets themselves because of laws protecting freedom of speech.

[International Herald Tribune]

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