A group of North Korean human rights campaigners has defied a request
of the South Korean government and launched thousands of balloon-borne
leaflets into North Korea. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
a dozen people belonging to the South Korea-based "North Korea Freedom
Coalition" took to the seas on Friday, carrying a cargo of thousands of
leaflets - each one printed on tissue-thin plastic material resembling
convenience store shopping bags.
The leaflets describe North
Korean leader Kim Jong Il as a "devilish killer who views his people
only as slaves." They say Kim Jong Il is the sole reason for North
Korea's hunger and poverty.
When their boat reached a point
about eight kilometers west of the South Korean city of Incheon,
coalition members filled giant 12 meter long balloons with helium.
Then they attached bundles of leaflets to the balloons, and let the
ocean wind whisk them away, off in the direction of North Korea. By
the end of the day some hundred thousand leaflets were airborne.
Sang-hak is the president of the North Korea Freedom Coalition. Like
the group's members, he is a North Korean defector who left his country
to escape severe deprivation and political repression. He says
operations like this are designed to give hope to those still living
under North Korea's authoritarian rule.
Park says the group
aimed the balloons at North Korea's Hwanghae province. He says the
weather is much better than the group expected, and that the results
Balloon launches like this have gotten North Korea's
attention. At inter-Korean military talks earlier this month, the
North complained specifically about leaflets carried by balloon, and
asked Seoul to put a stop to the launches.
Unification Ministry followed up by requesting the defectors group stop
the leaflet operations - but Park says he had no intention of complying.
says only dictatorships order people what to do. South Korea, he says,
is a democratic nation - and the government here cannot order
legitimate human rights groups around.
Improving North Korean
human rights is a stated priority of South Korean President Lee
Myung-bak's administration. South Korean naval vessels kept watch
during Friday's launch, but did not intervene. Previous
administrations sought to avoid angering Pyongyang on matters of human
rights, and might have done more to discourage such balloon launches.
14,000 North Koreans now live in the South. Another 100,000 are
estimated to be living illegally in China, hoping to make it here via a
third country. Park says groups like his will keep up their work until
all Koreans live in freedom.