U.S. rights group plans anti-North regime drive

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U.S. rights group plans anti-North regime drive

WASHINGTON - A human rights body here said Saturday it will launch balloons deep into North Korea and hold other events in Seoul next month to call international attention to human rights violations in the reclusive communist state.

“It is now reported that as many as 60 percent of North Koreans have access to outside information and they are increasingly doubting the regime’s relentless propaganda,” Suzanne Scholte, chairwoman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, said in a statement.

North Korea has denounced the South Korean government and nongovernmental organizations for trying to float radios, pamphlets and other material to expose North Koreans to the popular uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. North Korea has not yet shown any sign of unrest despite a chronic economic crisis and severe food shortages.

Few analysts see the chances of any imminent collapse of the impoverished, nuclear-armed regime, citing tight control of information, a lack of civil society and the military and ruling elite reluctantly clinging to the Kim Jong-il regime without any intention of risking the loss of their privileges that might follow any drastic changes.

Scholte, however, said she had witnessed changes in the North.

“Average North Koreans are no longer dependent on the regime to survive, as over 200 private markets are in existence and the regime has given up trying to control these markets and reassert control over access to food; and perhaps, most significant, Kim Jong-il’s unprovoked and brutal attacks on South Korea have awakened those living in freedom that we must no longer ignore the human rights of our brothers and sisters for the false promises of this regime to end its nuclear program,” she said.

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