Groups of North Korean defectors here were set to fly anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North on Friday and Saturday despite the communist state’s renewed threat to strike the South’s “strongholds of psychological warfare” and safety concerns raised by South Koreans living near the border.
Residents of Cheorwon in Gangwon Province and Paju in Gyeonggi Province have protested the leaflet campaigns out of fear that North Korean shells may land in their neighborhood.
Some even say they will physically block the groups from sending the leaflets if necessary.
“I have never thought about the leaflet campaigns in a negative way before, but since the North is threatening our lives and property, we could take physical means to stop them,” a resident of a frontline village in Cheorwon said.
Resident representatives of Paju and nearby Munsan filed an official request to the municipal government of Paju early this month to take steps so that no more leaflets are flown from Imjingak, after the North threatened to fire at the tourist pavilion.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said, however, that it has no plans to interfere with the defectors’ anti-Pyongyang propaganda activities.
“We are aware of the residents’ concerns as they have raised the issue with the nearby police and the military, but they have not made any appeals to the ministry yet,” ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo said.
“We have no plans to interfere with the nongovernmental groups’ activities. But it is the ministry’s position that such warnings by the North that raise tensions would do no good to bilateral ties.”
In the past, the ministry had asked the groups to refrain from flying the leaflets based on an inter-Korean agreement to end psychological warfare. But it has not made such requests after concluding that the North sank the South Korean naval ship Cheonan a year ago.
One of the defectors’ groups suspended flying the balloons filled with leaflets last week due to fierce protests from dozens of Cheorwon residents.
The group led by Lee Min-bok, a Christian missionary, plans to go ahead with its plan to send off the balloons Saturday.
Lee said his group has already flown about 100 million leaflets to the North in the past year.
“We just quietly send them off when the wind blows in the right direction, but somehow (the residents) found out about it last time,” Lee said.
“We plan to send about 30,000 on Saturday.”
Some 20 groups of North Korean defectors plan to send some 200,000 leaflets and memory sticks that contain videos, designed to enlighten North Koreans living in the tightly-controlled society with little access to outside information, on Friday and Saturday.
The leaflets include messages pinpointing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as the culprit for the Cheonan’s sinking that killed 46 South Korean seamen; criticizing the lavish lifestyle of his three sons; and comparing Kim with other autocratic rulers such as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The North on Wednesday renewed its warning against psychological warfare, saying that its soldiers were ready to fire at related South Korean facilities.
“Our troops across the entire frontline areas are ready at all times to directly aim at and strike the strongholds of psychological warfare and move into actual action at a time we think is proper,” a North Korean military commander was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency.
“From a military perspective, psychological warfare is an act of war. If the South does not want to see the repeat of the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, it should stop all psychological warfare activities immediately and behave discreetly.”
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org