Activists launch leaflets into North Korea despite threats, may follow with The Interview

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean activists balloon-launched anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea and threatened on Tuesday to follow them with copies of Hollywood comedy The Interview, despite the North's dire threats of retaliation.

The North has warned at least one activist that he would "pay for his crimes in blood" if copies of the movie about a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made it across the border.

Activist Park Sang Hak told the local media that his group, Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), had launched balloons with 100,000 leaflets on Monday night in an unpublicised operation near the border town of Paju.

Copies of The Interview were "intentionally" excluded from the leaflet packages, Mr Park said, but added that his group still had plans to send USB files and DVDs of the film at a later date.

Mr Park told Yonhap news agency he might reconsider if North Korea agrees to the South's proposal for high-level talks on a possible reunion for families divided by the 1950-1953 Korean war.

The US-based Human Rights Foundation, which supports the FFNK activities, said further balloon launches would be carried out this week, despite the "bullying" threats from Pyongyang.

The foundation also said it intended to put 100,000 copies of The Interview, along with a variety of other media, into North Korea, but did not offer a specific timeframe.

North Korea, which refers to the activists as "human scum", has long condemned the balloon launches and in recent months has stepped up its demands for Seoul to ban the practice entirely.

In October last year, North Korea border guards attempted to shoot down some balloons, triggering a brief exchange of heavy machine gun fire between the two sides.

South Korea insists the activists have a democratic right to release the balloons, but has appealed for restraint to avoid overly provoking the North and endangering local residents near the launch sites.

Any effort to include The Interview DVDS in the regular leaflet packages is likely to trigger a furious reaction from Pyongyang, which had labelled the film "a wanton act of terror" before its release.

North Korea has denied US accusations that it was behind a devastating cyberattack on the studio behind the film, Sony Pictures.

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