Pyongyang hawk behind leaflet drive

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Pyongyang hawk behind leaflet drive


Kim Yong-chol

North Korea’s hardline military leader recently appointed to oversee inter-Korean affairs has orchestrated a campaign that involves flying leaflets critical of the Park Geun-hye administration across the border, a senior Seoul official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Since South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts along the border in response to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test [on Jan. 6], the North has been continuously sending anti-South Korean leaflets,” the official said. “We have information that the leaflet campaign was the first project orchestrated by Kim Yong-chol, who succeeded the late Kim Yang-gon as the director of the United Front Department.”

After Kim Yang-gon, who for decades served as Pyongyang’s point man for South Korean ties, died in a traffic accident at the end of last year, General Kim Yong-chol, a top military official who oversaw North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, was tapped to take over the position.

The hawkish general is known to have spearheaded two deadly attacks on South Korea in 2010, serving as the mastermind behind both the North’s torpedoing of the Cheonan warship in March that year and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island the following November.

He is also alleged to have been responsible for planting land mines inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) last summer that ended up maiming two South Korean patrol guards.

Since Jan. 12, the North has been disseminating leaflets via balloons along the western inter-Korean border. The leaflets, demanding that the South stop its propaganda campaign, have been consistently found in areas across northern Gyeonggi and Seoul. The letters contain escalated insults toward President Park.

“As of now, we have collected more than 100,000 leaflets,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense.

The government believes the liaison offices under the United Front Department is producing the leaflets.

“We have detected some North Korean soldiers flying balloons carrying leaflets at the western border,” a government source said. “The soldiers are just flying the leaflets that were produced elsewhere and transported there.”

“General Kim served as an officer at the demilitarized zone in the 1960s and later as a liaison at the Military Armistice Commission, so he knows the situation at the border,” an intelligence official added. “Since the 1980s, he has attended inter-Korean talks, so he is also well-informed about South Korean affairs.”

The government suspects Kim began plotting the leaflet campaign immediately after he was appointed to head the United Front Department, particularly considering that it takes time for the North to prepare and produce materials with limited resources. It took just four days for the North to begin sending the leaflets after the South resumed loudspeaker broadcasts across the border.

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