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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora