SEOUL (AFP) – South Korean activists vowed Friday to push ahead with a political leaflet launch over the border with North Korea, despite threats of retaliation from Pyongyang, appeals for restraint from Seoul and the angry opposition of local residents.
The activists plan to release balloons carrying around 40,000 leaflets criticising the North’s government across the heavily-militarised frontier on Saturday.
Pyongyang, which refers to the activists as “human scum”, has long condemned the launches and in recent weeks has stepped up its demands for the authorities in Seoul to ban the practice entirely.
Two weeks ago, North Korea border guards attempted to shoot down some balloons, triggering a brief exchange of heavy machine gun fire between the two sides.
“If another leaflet scattering operation is conducted despite the repeated warnings … inter-Korean relations will be pushed to an uncontrollable catastrophe,” the North said Thursday.
It has also warned that failure to halt future launches could scupper the planned resumption of high-level talks between the two Koreas.
The South says there is no legal basis for a blanket ban, but it has urged the activists to exercise common sense and restraint.
The groups behind Saturday’s planned launch remain undeterred and insist they will push ahead with the event in the border town of Paju.
“We see no reasons to stop it. We are used to threats from North Korea,” said the main organiser, Choi Woo-Won, a philosophy professor at Busan University.
But opposition to the launch is not just coming from Pyongyang.
Several dozen local residents have been holding a sit-in at the proposed launch site since Thursday, protesting that the threats of military retaliation are credible and that the activists are putting their lives and businesses at risk.