Activist threatens to spread ‘The Interview’ DVDs

January 20, 2015
"The Interview" poster.

“The Interview” poster.

SEOUL (Yonhap) — A local activist group vowed Tuesday to scatter DVDs of the U.S. movie “The Interview” over the border into North Korea if the communist country does not accept Seoul’s weeks-old offer for dialogue.

In late December, Seoul proposed that the two Koreas hold high-level talks to discuss pending issues, including arranging a reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The North, however, has yet to come up with an official response to that overture.

“We will launch a large volume of the movie’s DVDs across the border unless Pyongyang accepts Seoul’s dialogue offer,” Park Sang-hak, the head of the Fighters for a Free North Korea, said in a news conference.

The U.S. comedy film revolves around an American TV producer and a show host’s trip to North Korea to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The release of the movie has drawn angry reaction from the communist country.

“In compliance of the (South) government’s request to stop leaflet scattering, (we) will suspend the activity until Lunar New Year’s Day next month,” Park said. “Now is the time for the North to answer to the South’s proposal for talks.”

During the press conference, Thor Halvorssen from the U.S.-based Human Rights Foundation said that the group is considering various technical methods with local activists to spread anti-regime leaflets in North Korea, including the employment of drones.

The activists are planning to send 100,000 DVDs of the controversial movie, the American activist said.

The news conference came after activists from the two human rights groups launched a leaflet campaign on Monday night.

They sent balloons carrying 100,000 anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border, but DVDs of “The Interview” were not included despite an earlier decision to do so.

The activist group often flies leaflets carrying anti-regime messages in big plastic balloons across the border in a bid to spread dissenting messages in the reclusive communist country. Such activities have often drawn angry reactions and threats of retaliation from North Korea.

Amid rising inter-Korean tension over the issue, South Korea has repeatedly called on the activist group to scrap their campaigns, with a high-level government official personally meeting Park last week to advise him against the activities.

In an interview with Washington-based Radio Free Asia released earlier Tuesday, Park indicated that he would not scrap the DVD plan without an official government request.

The South Korean government has maintained that it will not interfere with the campaign because it is a matter of freedom of speech, although it may take action to prevent any safety risks that might result from the activities.

On Tuesday, a unification ministry official again reiterated its stance that “Leaflet spreading by private groups belongs to a sphere of the basic freedom of expression, therefore the government cannot force them (to stop) and the private sector should decide for themselves.”

“The government will take necessary action only in case clear risks are posed to the safety of citizens in the concerned region,” the official said, adding that the government plans to continue to call for discretion from activists.