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S. Korean activists call off plan to fly anti-N. Korea leaflets

South Korean activists on Thursday called off their plan to fly leaflets denouncing North Korea this weekend, citing personal matters for a key activist involved in the activity.

   "A family member of a senior official of an activist group has passed away, and we've decided to suspend our plan temporarily," said Choi Sung-yong, head of a group of South Koreans whose family members have been abducted by North Korea.

   Earlier Thursday, activists had said they would send hundreds of thousands of leaflets denouncing North Korea across the border between the countries this Saturday, despite the communist state's threats to fire if the propaganda activity is not stopped.

   Park Sang-hak, head of the Fighters for Free North Korea, said the leaflets, to be sent in balloons to North Korea from the South Korean border zone of Imjingak on Saturday, will also contain news about recent uprisings in the Middle East.

   Imjingak, already popular among activists and North Korean defectors who routinely send anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the isolated country, emerged as a potential flash point when the North threatened on Feb. 27 to shoot at it if the activity continues.

   A progressive civic group also said earlier this week that it will hold rallies there in a bid to forestall the propaganda activity, raising concerns over a possible clash between the sides.

Residents in Paju, a city where Imjingak is located, said sending leaflets has raised tensions in their neighborhood, affecting their business and also threatening their safety.

   Park and his fellow activists normally mix leaflets with USB memory sticks containing material that they hope will enlighten ordinary North Koreans, who are kept away from outside information.

   Park said Thursday he will also attach a global positioning system to a balloon he plans to send to North Korea this weekend, which he said will help dismiss doubts over whether his leaflets fly far enough to reach North Korean residents.

   North Korea reacts violently to any outside attempts to undermine the image of its regime among its impoverished 24 million people. The relations between the Koreas hit the worst point in years when the North bombarded a South Korean island in November last year, killing four people. (Yonhap News)

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