[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
South Korea blocks leaflets campaign
Officers stopped activists from sending balloons filled with leaflets over the border, after threats from North Korea.
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2012 05:30
The balloons, like this one from a previous launch, carry messages denouncing the Kim dynasty [Reuters]

Activists in South Korea have been stopped from sending balloons carrying propaganda leaflets over the border with the country's northern neighbour.

Groups of defectors from North Korea had planned to launch 200,000 leaflets denouncing Pyongyang, but were blocked by South Korean troops and riot police on Monday.

North Korean officials had threatened a "merciless military strike" in response to the launch, warning residents of the launch site's neighbourhood to evacuate the area.

"The surrounding area will become targets of direct firing," said a Pyongyang statement.

Scuffles broke out between activists and police at roadblocks surrounding Imjingak Park on the border, near the town of Paju, some 60 kilometres north of Seoul.

"This event has been authorised by the government. This is ridiculous," complained event organiser Park Sang-Hak, who blamed President Lee Myung-Bak for caving in to pressure from the north.

"Lee Myung-bak woke up this morning and got scared of some immature kid [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] and decided to stop us.

"We are not here to provoke a conflict but to convey the truth to North Koreans. President Lee will be remembered as a cowardly leader who succumbed to North Korean threats," Park said.

Strong warning

Such leafleting events, carrying messages criticising the Kim dynasty and urging the people of North Korea to rise up in rebellion, are relatively common - and North Korea has threatened action in the past - but Friday's statement was unusually strong with its specific naming of the time and location, coupled with the evacuation warning.

It was also the first time such a precise threat had been made under North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, believed to be 28 years old, who took over the reins of the isolated state after the death in December of his father, Kim Jong-Il.

Tensions have been building on the Korean peninsula during the past two weeks, with Pyongyang reacting angrily to a new US-South Korea agreement to nearly triple the range of the South's missile systems, bringing the whole of North Korea within range.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, called Monday for restraint from both Pyongyang and the activists in the South.

"We urge the North to stop the threats ... and have constantly asked the civic groups to refrain from such acts, in consideration of inter-Korea relations," a ministry spokesman told reporters.

The leaflets also carry news about rebellions in other parts of the world, including events of the "Arab Spring".

North Korea shelled a South Korean island in November 2010, killing civilians and prompting counter-fire from the South.

The two nations remain technically at war, because the 1950-53 Korean war ended with only an armistice.

443

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
In Brussels, NGO staff are being trained to fill the shortfall of field workers in West Africa.
Lawsuit by 6-year-old girl, locked up for a year, reignites debate over indefinite detention of 'boat people'.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Citizens of the tiny African nation say they're increasingly anxious of the fallout after alleged coup.
A humanitarian crisis and a budget crisis converge in the heart of the human smuggling corridor in Texas.
join our mailing list