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Activists Consider Suspending ‘The Interview’ Balloon Launch into North Korea

Thor Halvorssen, second right, the president of HRF, Human Rights Foundation, raises his arm and speaks during a press conference as Park Sang-hak, center, a North Korean Defector and the head of the Fighters for a Free North Korea, listens during a press

A North Korean defector group says it is willing to suspend plans to send balloons into North Korea carrying DVD copies of The Interview, a movie depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The offer is contingent upon Pyongyang agreeing to talks to hold reunions for separated families.

Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector living in South Korea and leader of an activist group called Fighters for Free North Korea, said his organization this week sent balloons full of thousands of leaflets that were critical of the Pyongyang government into the North.

But he said they did not send copies of the movie The Interview, an American fictional comedy that mockingly portrays, then kills off, the North Korean leader.

He said the South Korean government asked them to refrain from sending the USBs and DVDs for a while, so they went along with that request.

The United States has accused North Korea of orchestrating a cyberattack on Sony Pictures in December to prevent the release of The Interview and has imposed new sanctions against top North Korean officials. Pyongyang denied allegations of hacking but has called the movie an act of war.

South Korea has reached out recently to the North to engage in talks to organize reunions for families that have been separated since the end of the Korean War in 1953. But Pyongyang has said in the past that these balloon launches of anti-regime materials must first be halted before they will enter into any dialogue.

Seoul has refused to stop the balloon launches citing freedom of speech issues, but did appeal to the organizers to show restraint.

Park Sang-hak said his group will wait until February 18, which is New Year’s Day on the lunar calendar.

He said if North Korea does not respond to the government’s proposals, such as the reunion of separated families and the holding of talks, they will send a huge number of USBs and DVDs of the movie, The Interview, which he predicted will destroy Kim Jong Un.

Thor Halvorssen with the Human Rights Foundation, a U.S.-based group that supports the balloon launches, said while they will refrain from sending The Interview movie for now, they will continue to send other anti-regime leaflets.

“The North Korean government, it threatens with guns. It threatens with knives. It threatens with missiles. All we have is ideas,” said Halvorssen.

Some South Korean residents living near the border have expressed concern that these balloon launches could prompt North Korea to attack their towns and villages. A balloon launch last year sparked an exchange of gunfire between North and South Korean soldiers at the border.

VOA News Producer in Seoul Youmi Kim contributed to this report.