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

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs