South Korea fails to thwart activists from sending candy and socks to North Korea

South Korean activists eluded police to float balloons carrying tens of thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets (and candy and socks) into North Korea.

Courtesy of The Freedom North Korea Broadcast/Reuters
Activists and North Korean defectors living in South Korea prepare a balloon containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets in Ganghwa, about 37 miles west of Seoul on Oct. 22.

Activists in South Korea claimed victory today in their battle to launch tens of thousands of balloons carrying propaganda material to North Korea.

The activists, almost all defectors from North Korea, said they had to skirt South Korean policemen blocking them from their intended launch site and drive to a much less conspicuous site 20 miles south of the border village of Imjingak, the historical tourist area from which they had earlier planned to launch the balloons. 

The activists had chosen Imjingak, which includes a Buddhist shrine, a peace bell, and memorials to those who died in the Korean War, because it is a highly visible site where they could obtain maximum publicity. Local residents objected, however, after North Korea promised “merciless strikes” on the area, several miles south of the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.

The alternative site was on Ganghwa Island, at the mouth of the Han River about 30 miles northwest of Seoul. North Korea’s barren countryside is clearly visible on the other side.

The activists said they avoided policemen in their quest for a new launch site, but left the impression that authorities wanted to let them launch their balloons after having put on an appearance of frustrating their first plan. If the police had really wanted to stop them, one analyst noted anonymously, they would have followed them closely and set up new roadblocks.

There were no signs today of any North Korean effort to fire on the site from which balloons laden with about 120,000 leaflets on human rights abuses and dynastic rule under new leader Kim Jong-un were launched. The balloons, wafted northward on wind currents, also dropped off assorted other items – including dollar bills, candy bars, and socks.

Free North Korea Radio, one of several short-wave stations operated by activists that broadcasts from here into North Korea, carried several news stories announcing and then justifying the launch.

“We are keeping our promise to the public,” said a statement on the station’s website. “For the love of our brothers and sisters in North Korea, we cannot postpone this launch.” 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.