North Korea sends leaflet-filled balloons across DMZ
SEOUL — North Korea has sent balloons containing thousands of leaflets denouncing the South Korean government across the Demilitarized Zone, the first time the regime has airlifted propaganda across the heavily contested border in 12 years.
Officials with the Ministry of National Defense said South Korean troops found approximately 16,000 leaflets scattered between the border cities of Paju and Yangju between July 21 and July 24.
The 10 versions of the leaflets tell stories of North and South Koreans who allegedly have fled the South, including the story of a well-known North Korean defector who allegedly returned to his home country in the spring, a defense ministry spokesman said.
Ministry officials said little about North Korea’s possible motives for the leaflet drop, though one official said the North may be trying to disrupt South Korea’s political system. A presidential election in the South later this year will be crucial in determining whether it adopts a more conciliatory or aggressive stance toward the North.
U.S. Forces Korea referred all questions about the balloons to the South Korean defense ministry.
South Korean activists have routinely floated pro-democracy propaganda across the DMZ, prompting North Korea at times to threaten attacks against the activist groups as well as the border cities where they conducted their launches.
North Korean defector Park Sang Hak, who sends balloons filled with anti-regime literature across the DMZ and has been the target of a failed North Korean assassination attempt because of his activism, said the North may be resorting to leaflet drops because it has no other option to spread its messages in the South, such as through radio or television broadcasts.
Kim Jong Un, who assumed control in North Korea late last year, may also believe South Koreans will be receptive to messages from the country’s new leadership, Park said.
“He’s misjudging the feelings of South Koreans,” he said.
Baek Seung Joo, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, said the leaflets drops are likely the work of a military or government agency trying to demonstrate its loyalty to the new dictator.
“Sending the leaflets is about the North’s internal politics,” he said. “South Korea’s minds won’t be changed by them. It’s for the survival of some North Korean agency.”