Activists vow low-key anti-Pyongyang campaign amidst rising tension

November 3, 2014

South Korean activists have declined to stop, but agreed to tone down their campaign for the time being. (NEWSis)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korean activists pledged Monday to continue their anti-North Korea leaflet campaign in a low-key manner for the time being despite a growing inter-Korean feud over the sensitive issue.

A number of activist groups, including the key player Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), have often launched balloons carrying propaganda leaflets across the border to spread anti-Pyongyang messages targeting the North Korean leader and the country’s dictatorship.

The propaganda campaign, often publicly announced beforehand and widely covered by local and overseas media, has recently been at the center of the inter-Korean row, with North Korea threatening not to hold dialogue with the South unless it is stopped.

“In the future, the spreading of anti-North leaflets by defector groups will be conducted behind the scenes, taking into consideration more effective methods (of campaigns) as well as the safety of residents (at the border area) and direction of the wind,” the activist groups said in a statement.

The change among the hard-line activist group, which has long defied the North and the local government’s calls to stop, came amid growing criticism over the security risks their campaigns pose on front-line border residents as well as inter-Korean diplomatic feuds over the issue.

North Korea has spurned high-level inter-Korean talks in protest of Seoul’s inaction over the propaganda campaign, damping fence-mending hopes raised following the North’s surprising dispatch of a top-notch delegation to the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games in early October.

“If North Korea does not make (further) provocations, we will take a step back and send the leaflets behind the scenes,” FFNK head Park Sang-hak said. “We may also suspend anti-Pyongyang leaflet spreading entirely for a while for the two Koreas to engage in talks,” Park noted.

The activist groups, however, asserted that their latest decision was not meant to succumb to the North’s military threat, vowing to continue their “movement to democratize North Korea” down the road even at the cost of the activists’ lives.