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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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” ( in US and EU). My blog is at 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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs