News / Asia

    Defying Police, N. Korean Defectors Launch Balloons

    Police officers stand guard to block trucks containing anti-North Korea leaflets on a road in Paju near demilitarized zone, South Korea, October 22, 2012.
    Police officers stand guard to block trucks containing anti-North Korea leaflets on a road in Paju near demilitarized zone, South Korea, October 22, 2012.
    A group of North Korean defectors have launched balloons carrying 120,000 propaganda leaflets toward their former homeland on Monday.
     
    Pyongyang had threatened military retaliation before the planned launch by Members of Freedom Fighters for North Korea.
     
    Blocked by police from reaching the initial launch site, some of the defectors secretly headed to an alternative launch site out of view of South Korean authorities, a history museum on Ganghwa, about an hour's drive west of the capital, Seoul.
     
    Group leader Park Sang-hak says the launch from the original site, Paju, had been authorized by the government and that blocking it at the last minute was ridiculous.
     
    He then questioned why South Korean President Lee Myung-bak would "stand with the North Korean leadership" in stopping the group's activity.
     
    A spokesperson for the Presidential Blue House denies involvement in trying to block the balloon launch, calling it a matter for the defense ministry and police.
     
    President Lee is nearing the end of his five-year term. He cannot run again for the office and the election to succeed him is less than two months away.
     
    Some citizens living near the initial launch site had voluntarily evacuated to shelters, fearing a North Korean artillery attack in retaliation to the balloon launch.
     
    A small group of peace activists in the area had demanded the balloon launch be halted, saying it could be the catalyst for war between the two Koreas.
     
    Spokesman Kim Hyung-suk of South Korea's Unification Ministry, which deals with matters relevant to the North, says organizers of such launches should exercise restraint, taking into consideration the situation between the two Koreas.
     
    "North Korea's threat to retaliate militarily about a planned event by a civilian group is totally inappropriate," said Kim.
     
    South Korean media quote officials saying there were signs the North was readying artillery in the hours before the publicly announced balloon launch.
     
    Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok says such information about North Korean forces' movements are a military secret.
     
    "The defense ministry acknowledges North Korea's military is probably making preparations for what they announced last week," said the defense official, adding that South Korea's forces will carry out a harsh and thorough retaliation on the origin of any North Korean attack and the forces supporting it.
     
    Local media reports say South Korean forces have gone on high alert, increasing combat air patrols as well as deploying artillery and tank brigades. Some military vehicles were seen heading north into Paju Monday morning.   
     
    There have been numerous balloon launches in the past, but the North Korean objection to this latest one made a specific threat to directly fire on the area surrounding the event.
     
    The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations. An armistice signed in 1953 halted a devastating three-year civil war, but no peace treaty has ever been signed.

    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: David C. Couper
    October 23, 2012 11:25 AM
    Of course it is a lot easier to talk about improving our police than doing it. For the most part, police throughout the world are the same and need to be held to the same standards. And the same insights and direction for improving them hold true. Police should be well-trained and led, restrained in their use of force, honest, and courteous to all. To take a look at how to improve police, see “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” (Amazon.com in US and EU). My blog is at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com where I discuss these and other current police improvement issues. Good luck and may we all experience not just good but great policing!

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    October 22, 2012 11:50 AM
    North Korea deserves a little shaking, like this one. One wonders why it has to bottle people in that jungle-like place and not allow them know what's happening in the world. Shake them up, you are supported. Let's see its worst if it's not bluffing.

    by: Weveret from: texas yee haw
    October 22, 2012 8:51 AM
    N. Korea needs to be put down asap

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora