Defector group launches anti-North Korea leaflets despite South Korea ban

Mr Park Sang-hak had launched 10 advertising balloons carrying 500,000 leaflets, 500 mini booklets and five thousand US$1 bills. PHOTO: NYTIMES

SEOUL (REUTERS) - An activist group in South Korea said on Friday (April 30) it had released balloons into North Korea carrying dollar bills and leaflets denouncing the government in Pyongyang, defying a recently imposed law banning such releases.

Mr Park Sang-hak, who defected from North Korea in 2000 and heads the group Fighters For Free North Korea, said he had launched 10 advertising balloons carrying 500,000 leaflets, 500 mini booklets and five thousand US$1 bills from locations in border provinces between Sunday and Thursday.

Videos and photos released by the group showed Mr Park launching the balloons at night and calling for an end to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's "hereditary dictatorship".

In the video, Mr Park holds a large poster with a drawing of Mr Kim holding missiles in both fists, and slogans saying humanity denounced the North Korean leader as a lunatic carrying out nuclear missile provocations with the blood and sweat of hungry North Korean people.

North Korea has condemned the leaflets and other materials as unpardonable insults to its leadership, and last year said it would cut communication with the South over the issue.

After the complaints from the North, South Korea's Parliament in December passed a law banning the scattering of printed materials, goods, money and other items of value across the heavily fortified frontier.

But the law has been criticised by human rights activists who say it curtails free speech at the behest of the North's authoritarian regime.

Any violation of the law is punishable by up to three years in prison or 30 million won (S$35,877) in fines.

The police and the military are investigating the group's statement, said Mr Cha Deok-cheol, deputy spokesman of Seoul's unification ministry, which oversees engagement with North Korea.

"The revised Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act is a law that ensures life and safety of the border-area residents,"Mr Cha told a briefing on Friday.

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