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(3rd LD) Activists release leaflets to N. Korea despite opposition

2014/10/25 21:47

SEOUL/PAJU/GIMPO, South Korea, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- Anti-Pyongyang activists in South Korea flew tens of thousands of propaganda leaflets into North Korea across the border late Saturday despite the North's warning that it could scuttle an anticipated high-level inter-Korean meeting next week.

Earlier in the day, the North's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said the scattering of leaflets that deride the isolated regime will lead to "very severe" consequences. It likened the practice to a declaration of war.

Another key North Korean newspaper, Minju Joson, took a similar stand on the issue, saying that the floating of anti-Pyongyang leaflets "is recognized as a war action in the light of international law."

  A resident in Paju, north of Seoul holds up a picket sign opposing conservative activists' attempts to fly leaflets to North Korea on Oct. 25, 2014. (Yonhap) A resident in Paju, north of Seoul holds up a picket sign opposing conservative activists' attempts to fly leaflets to North Korea on Oct. 25, 2014. (Yonhap)

Anti-Pyongyang activists in South Korea, many of them defectors from the North, have been periodically sending propaganda leaflets into the North across the border. The leaflets are mostly about corruption and abysmal human rights conditions in the country.

The latest leaflet campaign comes ahead of a new round of high-level talks the two Koreas had agreed to hold. North Korea has openly threatened to cancel the talks if Saturday's leaflet campaign went ahead.

As they did before, South Korean officials maintain that there are no legal basis to prohibit the leaflet campaign. When the activists flew anti-Pyongyang leaflets last week, border guards of the two Koreas traded machine gun fire. Some North Korean rounds were later found to have landed near Paju, a South Korean border town.

On Saturday, hundreds of Paju residents clashed with the anti-Pyongyang activists trying to fly balloons carrying propaganda leaflets toward the North across the border, saying that the practice endangers their livelihood.

About six hours after their initial campaign was foiled by Paju residents, the anti-North Korean activists moved to a different location farther to the western border and flew 20,000 leaflets, organizers said.

Earlier in the day, some 40 anti-North Korean activists had planned to float about a dozen balloons carrying 50,000-10,000 leaflets criticizing the country's regime from Imjingak, a park at the South Korean border town of Paju, at around 1 p.m.

But the plan fell through as around 200 Paju residents and liberal activists staged a sit-in and blocked the entrance of the border park with farming tractors. Some activists seized and damaged the leaflets and balloons.

The anti-North Korean activists brought more leaflets and balloons to send them to North Korea from the Odusan Unification Observatory on the southern side of the border, about 22 kilometers from Imjingak.

However, residents, fearful of North Korean retaliations, foiled it again by blocking the parkig lot of the observatory. Minor clashes occurred between the two opposing groups but there were no reports of injuries or arrests, police said.

Opponents have been condemning the release of the balloons as life-threatening. Earlier this month, North Korea opened fire on leaflet-carrying balloons that were launched by the same group. Some of the rounds landed in South Korean territory.

"The damage is big. We can't work when the military launches an emergency situation due to the leaflet launches. If they try to launch leaflets, we will block them," said an 81-year-old resident surnamed Choi, who was among the people who brought the tractors(2nd LD) NK-leaflets (2nd LD) Activists release leaflets to N. Korea despite opposition (ATTN:RECASTS headline,lead; UPDATES with details throughout)

SEOUL/PAJU/GIMPO, South Korea, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- Anti-Pyongyang activists in South Korea flew tens of thousands of propaganda leaflets to North Korea across the border late Saturday despite the North's warning that it could scuttle an expected high-level inter-Korean meeting next week.

Earlier in the day, the North's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said the scattering of leaflets that deride the isolated regime will lead to "very severe" consequences. It likened the practice to a declaration of war.

Anti-Pyongyang activists in South Korea, many of them defectors from the North, have been periodically sending propaganda leaflets into the North across the border. The leaflets are mostly about corruption and abysmal human rights conditions in the country.

The latest leaflet campaign comes ahead of a new round of high-level talks the two Koreas had agreed to hold. North Korea has openly threatened to cancel the talks if Saturday's leaflet campaign went ahead.

As they did before, South Korean officials maintained that there are no legal basis to prohibit the leaflet campaign. When the activists flew anti-Pyongyang leaflets last week, border guards of the two Koreas traded machine gun fire. Some North Korean rounds were later found to have landed near Paju, a South Korean border town.

On Saturday, hundreds of Paju residents clashed with the anti-Pyongyang activists trying to fly balloons carrying propaganda leaflets toward the North across the border, saying that the practice endangers their livelihood.

About six hours after their initial campaign was foiled by Paju residents, the anti-North Korean activists moved to a different location farther to the western border and flew 20,000 leaflets, organizers said.

Earlier in the day, some 40 anti-North Korean activists had planned to float about a dozen balloons carrying 50,000-10,000 leaflets criticizing the country's regime from Imjingak, a park at the South Korean border town of Paju, at around 1 p.m.

But the plan fell through as around 200 Paju residents and liberal activists staged a sit-in and blocked the entrance of the border park with farming tractors. Some activists seized and damaged the leaflets and balloons.

The anti-North Korean activists brought more leaflets and balloons to send them to North Korea from the Odusan Unification Observatory on the southern side of the border, about 22 kilometers from Imjingak.

However, residents, fearful of North Korean retaliations, foiled it again by blocking the parkig lot of the observatory. Minor clashes occurred between the two opposing groups but there were no reports of injuries or arrests, police said.

Opponents have been condemning the release of the balloons as life-threatening. Earlier this month, North Korea opened fire on leaflet-carrying balloons that were launched by the same group. Some of the rounds landed in South Korean territory.

"The damage is big. We can't work when the military launches an emergency situation due to the leaflet launches. If they try to launch leaflets, we will block them," said an 81-year-old resident surnamed Choi, who was among the people who brought the tractors.

mil@yna.co.kr

(END)

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