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SKoreans float more
propaganda leaflets into North
By HYUNG-JIN KIM
Thursday, November 20, 2008;
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean activists sent propaganda leaflets over the border Thursday into North Korea, ignoring their own government's pleas to stop the practice and threats from the North to sever relations if it continues.
North Korea announced last week it would ban border crossings starting Dec. 1, citing the South Korean government's refusal to clamp down on "confrontational" activities, including the leafletting.
South Korean officials implored activists Wednesday to stop sending the leaflets critical of leader Kim Jong Il and his authoritarian regime, saying the campaign threatens to heighten tensions with the North.
Relations between the two Koreas have been tense since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February pledging to get tough with the North.
However, activists went ahead Thursday and sent about 10 huge helium balloons _ each stuffed with some 10,000 flyers _ across the heavily fortified border.
"We'll continue to send the leaflets. The government's appeal wasn't sincere," Choi Sung-yong said after launching a balloon from a spot near the border.
Thursday's leaflets criticized Kim's autocratic rule and called on North Koreans to rise up against his regime, saying he suffered a stroke recently.
"Your 'great' leader's last days are approaching. The dictator has collapsed from illness," one leaflet said.
A South Korean lawmaker _ who returned home Wednesday from a five-day trip to North Korea _ told reporters Thursday that the North has no intention of resolving the impasse unless South Korea changes its policy toward it.
"They spoke in such a strong manner that we couldn't say anything (in response)," said Kang Ki-kap, head of the small opposition Democratic Labor Party.
North Korean party officials also expressed dissatisfaction with media speculation over Kim's health condition, said Lee Young-soon, another member of the DLP delegation that visited the North. She did not elaborate.
South Korean and U.S. officials have said North Korea's 66-year-old leader, who allows no criticism or opposition to his rule, is likely to have suffered a stroke, but North Korea has denied he was ill.
The propaganda activists _ many of them defectors from the North _ say their hope is that North Koreans will pick up the leaflets printed on vinyl paper and realize their government has been lying to them. The leaflets are among the most direct means of reaching ordinary North Koreans since their access to the outside world is strictly regulated by the government.
While it's unclear exactly how many North Koreans read the leaflets, several defectors to the South have said the flyers prompted them to plot their defections.
The two Koreas agreed in 2004 to end decades of propaganda warfare _ including broadcasts by radio and loudspeaker and messages printed on leaflets. However, the South Korean government says it cannot ban people from sending the leaflets themselves because of laws protecting freedom of speech.
The two Koreas technically remain at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and remain divided by a heavily fortified border.
Associated Press photographer Young-joon Ahn contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects name of political party in graf 10.)