News / Asia

S. Korean Activists Seize Moment of Kim Jong Il's Demise

Kurt Achin

South Korean activists Wednesday launched balloon-borne leaflets into North Korea that call on the public to reject the leadership of Kim Jong Il's designated successor.  Activists are seizing a unique moment to stoke public opposition to the North's authoritarian government.

With the North's territory in sight just across a bridge, the crowd cheered for favorable wind currents.

The group, led by a North Korean defector, has carried out similar launches before. But this is the first time their leaflets address the death of the man North Koreans know as the "Dear Leader."

The leaflets say "Kim Jong Il descended into hell" and display his image next to authoritarian figures like Libya's Moammar Qaddafi and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

Group leader Park Sung Hak says the leaflets call on North Koreans to imitate the past year's populist uprisings known as the "Arab Spring."

"We gathered here to send our messages to the 20 million North Korean people who are taking this crucial opportunity to be freed from the dictatorship," said Park.  "The message is the three-generation succession of power is not acceptable and North Korean people should stop it with their own will."

Meanwhile, Christian activist Kim Seong-eun met with journalists in Seoul.

Kim showed surreptitiously-filmed video clips of life inside North Korea including some extremely rare video of a women's prison labor camp.  Human rights groups say some 200,000 North Koreans have been sent to such camps, where they live in deplorable conditions.

In a short clip shown to journalists, a single file line of disheveled apparent prisoners walk with their hands up.

Human rights groups estimate some 200,000 North Koreans have been sent to the camps, where torture is prevalent and living conditions can be deadly.

Kim says the country is now in a security lockdown, making it hard to smuggle out such images.

"Before Kim Jong Il died, we could telephone North Koreans fairly easily," said Kim.  "But that has gotten much more difficult under heightened security. In the longer run, though, I think our work will become easier."

Kim says many ordinary North Koreans fear Kim Jong Un will mismanage the economy, re-creating the famine conditions that drove tens of thousands to flee the country in the late 1990s.

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