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Activist vows to send leaflets despite N.K. threat

2015/03/16 12:01

SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- A leading South Korean activist on North Korean affairs vowed Monday to go ahead with a plan to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border next week, despite the North's warning of tough retaliation.

Early this month, Park Sang-hak, head of the Fighters for a Free North Korea, said the group of North Korean defectors would scatter leaflets critical of the communist regime around March 26, the 5th anniversary of the North's torpedoing of the South Korean corvette Cheonan.

"We will spread anti-North Korea leaflets as planned around March 26," Park told Yonhap News Agency by phone. "The Seoul government has not sent a formal request to halt the launch."

   "Even if the government makes the request, the group will press ahead with it," he stressed.

About 500,000 leaflets, as well as DVDs of the movie "The Interview," which depicts a plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong-un, will be sent to the North, he noted.

Park's group regularly launches big balloons carrying such anti-Pyongyang leaflets in a campaign to spread dissenting messages in the reclusive country.

The upcoming campaign is feared to further escalate inter-Korean tension that is already brewing as the North has strongly protested Seoul's joint military exercises with the United States this month.

Referring to the leaflet plan, North Korea's main propaganda website Uriminzokkiri renewed its military threat Monday.

"The act of leaflet scattering, which will be carried out amidst the rehearsal of war on North Korea, is an explicit declaration of war," the website said. "(We) do not hide the fact that we will counteract this time with cannons or missiles."

   In spite of the growing inter-Korean tension over the leaflet campaign, the South Korean government largely remains disinclined to interject itself in the matter, repeating its hands-off position.

"Basically, leaflet scattering by private groups falls on the basic right to free expression. It is something that (the government) cannot regulate by force," Lim Byeong-cheol, unification ministry spokesman, said in a briefing.

But in the event of the campaign posing clear threats to the safety of border-area citizens, the government will take necessary action, including a meeting with related activists to call for discretion, Lim noted.

Inter-Korean tension may further worsen over the leaflet issue down the road as more activist groups are expected to launch similar campaigns with the start of the spring season.

Park said he is also planning another campaign in early April jointly with foreign groups, including the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation.

pbr@yna.co.kr

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