North Korea tries kinder, gentler tone, but not with defectors in the South

by WorldTribune Staff, June 1, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said he was “moved” when South Korean President Moon Jae-In came to meet him at the DMZ. Kim even sent a personal letter to U.S. President Donald Trump as the two countries’ diplomats discussed a possible June 12 summit between Trump and Kim.

Balloons sent to the North by defector groups usually include leaflets critical of Pyongyang along with USBs and U.S. dollars. / AFP / Getty Images

But, when it comes to defectors who launch balloons from the South which contain leaflets criticizing North Korea, as well as U.S. dollar bills and USBs, the North’s kinder, gentler tone disappears.

Those who launch the balloons are “human scum,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in condemning the defectors’ “provocative rash action.”

Having risked their lives to flee their homeland, the defectors beg to differ.

At the April 27 Joint Panmunjeom Declaration, Moon and Kim agreed to cease all hostile acts against each other starting May 1. The agreement included loudspeaker broadcasts and leaflet launches along the border, The Korea Times noted in a June 1 report.

Park Sang-Hak, along with several members of the defectors’ group Fighters for Free North Korea, launched five vinyl “truth” balloons on May 12 from the border city of Paju, Gyeonggi Province.

“As more North Korean defectors participate in the balloon launches, the civic nature of the campaign carries Koreans’ basic rights of expression as well as the compelling appeal by insiders – those who have lived in North Korea – to let the truth and facts be known to the North Korean people,” the Korea Times said.

Park, who defected in 2000, said that “If we the North Korean defectors can write letters, phone our relatives or family in the North or contact them via the Internet, we would not have to send the messages and small gifts in the balloons.”

Park said the vinyl balloons can cross the border when the wind is right.

“Having risked our lives to come to South Korea, we defectors have an obligation to tell people in our hometown we are alive, that the South is not the hell the North regime pronounces it to be,” Park said.

In April, the South Korean government requested defector groups refrain from the balloon launches, but Park and others say they are not breaking any laws.

“We are a civic group, a nongovernmental organization. Our job is to awaken people to the truth, and call issue to faulty government policies if there are any. Also, what the hypocritical regime (in the North) fears most are the facts and the truth,” Park said.

Pastor Eric Foley, with the Christian NGO Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) Korea, said the balloon launches are a part of the peace process as a civic activity in parallel with the government’s peace-building efforts.

“We felt it was necessary for us to speak up, to clarify, that nothing we do is illegal,” Foley said. “We’ve done (the balloon launching) responsibly for 17 years. We even launched the balloons at the time that Kim Jong-Il died, the sinking of the Cheonan, the Yeonpyeong bombing and at no point have any of our actions moved this peninsula closer to war.”

VOM Korea sends copies of the North Korean Study Bible which uses the text of the Chosun Bible, the Bible in the North Korean dialect, the Korea Times noted. The group uses weather balloons made of expandable vinyl when sending the copies of these Bibles.

The group has not launched any balloons yet this year, but not because of the political progress, the pastor said.

“The winds shift from October until May, coming south. This is why North Korea launches from October to May, and so from May to October, it’s possible to launch back.”

Foley added, “What we cannot do is tailor our activities to match the political winds of the day.”

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