South Korea police thwart activists’ planned launch of leaflets

Seoul AFP-JIJI

South Korean police on Saturday stopped a planned launch of anti-North Korea leaflets across the border, an activist said, as Seoul seeks to open dialogue and defuse soaring tensions with Pyongyang.

The move came as the North issued a fresh threat to bomb any site where leaflets are launched as it accused Seoul of stirring the crisis which has engulfed the Korean Peninsula ever since Pyongyang conducted a rocket test last December and its third nuclear test in February.

Five activists traveling in a pickup truck loaded with 100,000 leaflets were surrounded by some 70 policemen near a hill in the northwestern city of Gimpo after which their vehicle was forcibly towed to the local police station.

“The police told us not to send such leaflets in the lead to April 15,” the birthday of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il Sung which the North celebrates as one of its most important national holidays, activist Park Sang Hak said.

Police have never before blocked such a launch without previously announcing their intentions in the media, Park said, adding that his group has launched leaflets five times over the past two months.

A police official told Yonhap news agency that Gimpo residents living near the border strongly objected to launching leaflets amid mounting tensions over the North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Park’s group, all defectors from the North, planned to use gas-filled balloons to float the leaflets across the western border.

Pyongyang’s official Internet website Uriminzokkiri said such launches were an “intolerable, provocative campaign” aimed at smearing the dignity of its leadership.

“If the puppets let ragtag bunches of misfits carry out such a circus as leaflet launches, a horrible tragedy would take place,” it said. “At a moment when even a single rubbish leaflet lands on our side, the origin of the provocation will be blown up.”