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Thursday, July 3, 2008

North Koreans to get balloon-delivered plastic newspapers from the South

SEOUL — As newspaper readership declines in the United States, an anti-communist group here plans to distribute copies of its newspaper to North Korea by balloon.

The newspaper will expose and condemn human rights violations in the communist country with articles written by North Korean defectors living in the South.

The two-page newspaper will also describe the freedoms and affluence in South Korea, officials from the group said.

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A total of 100,000 copies of the newspaper, called the "Free North Korea Shinmun," will be lofted into the North carried by about 30,000 balloons, defying of threats from Pyongyang that followed similar deliveries this spring.

The newspapers are made of plastic, instead of paper, to prevent them from being damaged after falling into mountainous areas or in water, according to the General Association of North Korea Defectors' Organizations.

"Most residents in the North live without hearing news from outside their country," said an official of the group. "We hope the newspapers will spread the desire for freedom by reporting the firsthand experiences of defectors who came to South Korea in search of freedom and human rights," he said.

Several civic organizations have sent airborne leaflets to the North using balloons, with messages condemning the communist regime. Some North Korean defectors said they had found the leaflets when they lived in the North, mostly in areas close to inter-Korean border.

In May, a Japanese civic group sent leaflets into the North by balloon from border areas asking for information on Japanese citizens abducted and transported to the communist country.

The leaflets called for North Koreans to cooperation to find the whereabouts of abductees, promising rewards of more than $10,000 to those who provided valuable information.

In an indication that the leaflets had reached their intended audience, the North Korean military recently warned that inter-Korean tensions could become "catastrophic" unless South Korea stopped the delivery of such leaflets.

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