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S. Korean activists clash with police over anti-Kim balloons

SEOUL (AP) — South Korean activists are flying balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda material across North Korea’s border as North Korea threatens to respond with “deadly” retaliation. He said he sometimes ran into police.

Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector-turned-activist, said his group launched about eight balloons from an area of ​​the South Korean border town of Paju on Saturday night when police arrived on the scene, killing 12. He said it prevented him from sending a few balloons. remaining balloons. Park said police confiscated some of the materials and detained him and his three other members of his group after a minor scuffle with officers before releasing them after questioning.

Paju police and northern Gyeonggi provincial police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The balloon that flew toward North Korea contained masks, Tylenol and vitamin C pills, a booklet praising South Korea’s economic wealth and democratic society, and a video of a U.S. congressman denouncing North Korea’s human rights record. It contained propaganda materials such as hundreds of USB sticks.

One of the balloons said, referring to the North Korean leader’s escalating nuclear policy, which has heightened tensions with its neighbor, “Mankind condemns Kim Jong-un for threatening a pre-emptive strike (on South Korea) with nuclear missiles. I was holding a placard that said,

Saturday’s launch came weeks after the South Korean government called on activists to halt the balloon launch, citing concerns related to the safety of residents in the border area. Hyo-jung said South Korea would “respond harshly” to any retaliation by North Korea over the balloons.

As North Korea accelerated and set a pace in its missile-testing activities and suspended these tests with a warning that it would use its nuclear weapons preemptively in a wide range of scenarios if its leadership perceives itself as being threatened, The animosity between the North and South has worsened this year.

North Korea is highly sensitive to outside criticism of the Kim clan’s authoritarian control of the population, and most of them have little access to foreign news. It accused South Korea’s current conservative government of allowing anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and other “dirty waste” to be flown across the border in balloons by South Korean civilian activists, accusing those items of COVID-19. It even made dubious claims that it caused the -19 outbreak.

For years, Park has floated helium-filled balloons containing leaflets and other propaganda material critical of the Kim family. , started sending vitamins.

Last year, South Korea implemented a controversial new law criminalizing private leaflet campaigns under a previous liberal government aimed at improving inter-Korean relations. , who became the first person to be prosecuted under the law, said Lee, his lawyer, since he filed a petition asking the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the new law was unconstitutional. His trial is basically on hold.Hung.

Opponents of the law say it sacrifices South Korea’s freedom of speech in an attempt to improve relations with North Korea. Proponents say the law is intended to avoid unnecessarily provoking North Korea and promote security for South Korean residents on the front lines.

In 2014, North Korea fired at a balloon flying over its territory, and in 2020, an empty South Korean-built liaison office in North Korea to express its anger over leaflet distribution. destroyed the In a 2011 assassination attempt, South Korean authorities arrested a North Korean operative who tried to kill Park with a pen equipped with a poison needle.

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