Monday, February 2, 2009

South Korea Activists Launch 5,000 Won Notes Tied to Balloons

By Michael Ha
Staff Reporter
The Korea Times
February 2, 2009

Activists said Monday that despite government objections, they will launch more anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border to the North.

And this time they are raising the stakes: The activists say they will attach North Korean banknotes to some of the leaflets to encourage citizens to pick them up.

The new leaflets will be launched around Feb. 16, the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the activists said.

But the government, which has been criticizing the activists' leaflet campaign as unnecessarily provoking the North, said it may conduct an investigation into the plan on how the activists got hold of North Korean currency.

The Ministry of Unification said that it would announce its official stance on the controversial issue sometime today.

President Lee Myung-bak also made it clear last week that he disapproves of the leaflet campaign. During a nationwide television appearance last Friday, he called on local activists to stop the campaign, saying, ``It is better to avoid inciting North Korea over trivial issues.''

According to Seoul, there is no law that prohibits launching anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North, but attaching North Korean money could be a different matter.

Since state approval is required to bring North Korean currency into the South, the government may be interested in finding out how the activists acquired their North Korean banknotes and whether they were involved in any illegal activities.

The ministry, which handles cross-border ties, said importing North Korean currency without approval is punishable by up to three years in jail, or heavy fines.

The activists said they are planning to send some 300,000 leaflets tied to balloons, along with North Korean banknotes worth two-to-three million won in total to be launched across the border. Each 5,000 North Korean-won note can buy two kilograms of rice or one kilogram of pork, according to local news reports.

Anti-North Korean leaflet drops have been going on for years. The flyers openly disparage North Korean leader Kim and anticipate the regime's eventual fall. But Pyongyang has renewed complaints about them since last year as inter-Korean ties continued to worsen under the conservative Lee administration.

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