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Anti-North Korea Leaflets Spark Clashes In South Korea

Activists trying to launch balloons with anti-North Korea propaganda across the border were stopped by South Korea residents fearing reprisals.
Posted at 11:53 PM, Oct 25, 2014

If you want to get a message past North Korea's oppressive media censorship, your best option might be balloons — anti-Pyongyang activists in South Korea have repeatedly launched balloons carrying propaganda leaflets across the border.

Unsurprisingly, the North Korean government takes a very dim view of these balloons — the last such launch, which happened earlier this month, was met with gunfire and threats of war from the North, and border tensions have only increased since then.

So when the activists planned another launch for Saturday, they encountered some heavy resistance which disrupted their plans — not from North Korea, but from their fellow South Koreans.

Residents of the border town Paju and liberal protesters clashed with the anti-Pyongyang activists as they arrived in the town to prepare for the launch. Demonstrators stole the propaganda pamphlets and scattered them across the ground.

The activists themselves were met with a blockade of residents who accused them of threatening the fragile peace between the two Koreas. Scuffles broke out between the two sides, though no serious injuries were reported.

The locals take the North's threats seriously, and worry the launches could endanger their livelihood. One resident told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency"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."

The leaflets often target North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un and blast the country's abysmal human rights record. The South Korean government protests the launches but says they have no legal authority to stop them.

North Korea has long blamed the South for the propaganda balloons, and Saturday's launch is likely to be no different. It's feared the leaflets could jeopardize high-level peace talks organized last month in an unexpected charm offensive from the North.

The activists did eventually manage to launch about 20,000 propaganda leaflets after relocating to a more remote area. It's unclear how many made it across the border.

This video includes images from Getty Images.