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Videotape Allegedly Shows North Korean Protest

A South Korean activist group says a videotape shot in North Korea shows a rare public gesture of opposition to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

The voice of a narrator says North Koreans are suffering from hunger and poverty because of Kim Jong-Il's policies - and says the country needs a different leader.

As the narrator speaks, a portrait of the North Korean leader is shown, covered with pro-democracy graffiti and the phrase, "Down with Kim Jong-Il."

These are the dominant images in video footage released Monday by a South Korean activist group here in Seoul. The Citizen's Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees says the 35-minute video was shot in the city of Hoeryong, near the Chinese border.

There is no way to confirm whether the video is genuine. Do Hee-youn, the head of the Citizen's Coalition, says the video was shot in November, and then smuggled into China and given to him by a third party.

Mr. Do says this is the first known video footage of dissident activity in North Korea. He says the North Koreans who shot it call themselves the Freedom Youth Comrades Association. None of them is seen on camera and nothing more is known about them.

Peter Beck represents the International Crisis Group here in Seoul. He says that if the tape is authentic, it would fit a recent pattern of possible signs of opposition to Kim Jong-Il.

"Just in the last two weeks we've seen the release of the footage that was allegedly photographed by a North Korean officer, showing just how desperate the living conditions are [in North Korea]," said Mr. Beck. "The fact that North Korea's contingency plan in the event of an attack by the South and the United States - that that leaked out seems to indicate that it's possible, at least, that something's going on."

North Korea is a one-party, authoritarian communist state that tolerates no opposition. Kim Jong-Il and his late father, Kim Il-Sung, the founder of the nation, are held in special reverence, and are officially beyond criticism. Political opponents risk severe punishment or death.