S Korea bans leaflet launch after threats

S Korea bans leaflet launch after threats

PAJU, South Korea - Agence France-Presse
S Korea bans leaflet launch after threats

A defector from Pyongyang scatters leaflets criticizing the Kim dynasty. AFP photo

South Korean police have blocked activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border with North Korea, which had threatened to respond with a “merciless” military strike.

The decision to shut down the propaganda exercise was an unusual one and reflected, analysts said, Seoul’s desire to avoid any destabilizing clash ahead of South Korea’s presidential election in December.

Specific timing, location

North Korean defectors who had planned to launch balloons carrying 200,000 propaganda leaflets across the heavily-militarized border were infuriated by the move, accusing President Lee Myung-bak of capitulating to the North’s threats. Local police officials said the decision had been dictated by “security concerns” after the North Korean army threatened a “merciless military strike” if the event went ahead and told local residents to evacuate. “The surrounding area will become targets of direct firing,” the Korean People’s Army said in a statement. North Korea has threatened strikes in the past, but the statement was unusually strong with its specific naming of the time and location, coupled with the evacuation warning.

It was not the first time the South has moved to prevent propaganda exercises, but yesterday’s action was unusually forceful in stopping the activists going anywhere near the border area.

Civic groups in the South regularly drop leaflets over the border with messages criticizing the Kim dynasty and urging the North Korean people to rise up against repression. The leaflets also carry news about rebellions in other parts of the world, including events of the “Arab Spring.”