Leaflets don’t fly in support of talks

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Leaflets don’t fly in support of talks

Anti-Pyongyang South Korean activists withdrew their plans to send leaflets criticizing the regime across the border, in order to not cause a military confrontation with the North.

The Korea Parent Federation, a conservative civic group critical of the North Korean regime, and another group of South Korean families of abductees to the North, issued a joint statement yesterday that they canceled their leaflet-sending campaign scheduled for today.

“We support the government’s proposal for dialogue with Pyongyang,” the statement read. “So we decided [not to send leaflets] in order to not give Pyongyang a reason to attack.”

Roughly 300 activists were supposed to send about 100,000 leaflets at Imjin Pavilion, Paju, a border region in northern Gyeonggi, today, which is the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.

They also planned to send Choco Pies, a popular South Korean chocolate snack, and some underwear along with the leaflets carried by balloons.

Choi Sung-yong, head of the group of families of the abductees, told Yonhap News Agency a Unification Ministry official visited him and dissuaded them from carrying out the leaflet-sending plan, and some vendors in Paju also asked them to cancel the plan.

Still, Choi added, “If North Korea continues to threaten us and refuse the proposal of our government for dialogue, we will send the leaflets.”

Their decision came after a group of North Korean defectors were blocked from sending their leaflets by policemen. Five members of the Fighters for Free North Korea, a civic group mostly composed of North Korean defectors critical of the regime, arrived in Gimpo, Gyeonggi, on Saturday, planning to send 100,000 leaflets and 1,000 one-dollar bills.

However, about 70 policemen appeared to prevent them from doing it, surrounding their vehicles. The policemen even pointed a tear gas gun at one of the members.

Park Sang-hak, head of the group, said he was shocked by police because it was the first time they had exerted force against the campaign.

“Police traced our vehicles and confiscated them and other materials,” Park said. “A member of our group wouldn’t get off the truck, so the police pointed a [tear gas] gun at him.”

“This kind of thing never happened even during the Roh Moo-hyun administration,” Park said. Roh was critical of their campaign.

However, an official from the Gimpo Police Precinct said, “We decided to block the campaign previously because it could unleash a clash with North Korea in the midst of escalating tensions.”

Previously, a mouthpiece of North Korea warned South Korean activists not to send any leaflets on the birthday of their founder, the biggest national holiday of the regime.

By Kim Hee-jin, Jeong Yong-soo [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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