By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – A group run by North Korean defectors working to promote human rights in the isolated country said it has sent propaganda leaflets including photos of incoming South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and aid parcels into the North.
North Korean defectors and activists in South Korea had for decades flown balloons carrying leaflets and humanitarian aid across the heavily fortified border.
Their campaigns were banned by the outgoing Moon Jae-in government which sought to improve inter-Korean ties, but an official whom Yoon nominated to oversee North Korea affairs has said he opposed that ban.
Fighters for a Free North Korea, a defector group leading the movement, said it launched 20 balloons carrying some 1 million propaganda flyers on Monday and Tuesday.
Images released by the group’s head, Park Sang-hak, showed one leaflet consisting of a photo of Yoon and a note “Great country where a prosecutor became the dear leader, the Republic of Korea’s 12th president Yoon Suk-yeol,” using South Korea’s official name.
Other images showed parcels containing the leaflets and aid including food wrapped with South Korean newspapers, and Park holding a balloon carrying those packages at night from an unspecified location.
“Breaking the hereditary dictatorship of Kim Jong Un, who revealed his ambition for a preemptive nuclear missile attack, is a true mission and conscience of free men,” the group said in a statement, vowing to continue sending leaflets.
The two Koreas are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, and the North has long denounced defectors and threatened to attack the South over the balloons.
Moon’s government barred the campaigns in 2020, citing safety concerns of residents on the border, but activists called the ban an attempt to white-wash Pyongyang and silence critics amid efforts to improve cross-border ties.
Yoon is set to take office on May 10 and expected to take a harder line with the North. Kwon Young-se, Yoon’s nominee for unification minister handling inter-Korean affairs, had said the ban violates the right to free speech.
An official at the unification ministry said it is checking on the group’s statement, and its position remains unchanged that the ban was imposed to protect border residents and should be implemented.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in a speech at a military parade on Monday, said his nuclear force was not only tasked with preventing war, but potentially striking anyone who violates the country’s “fundamental interests.”
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Kim Coghill)