An activist group’s attempt to send anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets across the border likely failed on Monday night, Seoul’s unification ministry said Tuesday, raising possible concerns that the group lied about the size of its cross-border launch.
“The head of Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), Park Sang-hak, on Monday night claimed that [the group] scattered 500,000 leaflets using 20 large-size balloons in the city of Paju. However, circumstances show that [this information] is unreliable,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
“We understand that no leaflet made it into the Northern region,” the statement said, citing the “direction of winds between Monday and Tuesday.”
The unification nevertheless confirmed that one balloon was found in Hongcheon County, a part of Gangwon Province.
The balloon landed in the South Korean territory, but did not have booklets, dollar bills or SD cards in it as the group had claimed, the ministry added.
MOU accused FFNK of “heightening inter-Korean tensions with misinformation” and continuing to attempt leafleting activities despite government restrictions.
It also stated that a list of purchases made by the group’s leader, Park Sang-hak, ahead of Monday’s balloon launch suggests that the group barely bought enough helium gas to propel one balloon.
Meanwhile, FFNK had previously told press earlier in the day that they successfully launched some 20 balloons between 23:00 and midnight the previous night.
The small amount of helium purchased could be related to the government’s recent crack down on hydrogen gas access, which activists typically use for balloon launches.
“The government — after previously stating that it will strictly respond to the scattering of anti-North Korea leaflets and other items — has been strengthening monitoring and crack-down efforts, cooperating with both the police and local governments,” the unification ministry said, further vowing to “seek all necessary measures” to stop further launches.
FFNK’s propaganda leaflets were titled “The Truth of the Horrors of June 25” and criticized late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, along with current leader Kim Jong Un and his sister, Kim Yo Jong.
Earlier this month, Kim Yo Jong railed against South Korea and defector-activists in a series of statements, referring to a previous May 31 FFNK balloon launch.
North Korea’s harsh response marked the beginning of a major escalation of inter-Korean tensions, and Pyongyang ultimately demolished the inter-Korean liaison office and withdrew from several 2018 inter-Korean agreements.
This week also saw the North reinstall propaganda loudspeakers along the inter-Korean border as well, disregarding 2018 Panmunjom Declaration.
South Korea since early June continued to warn activist groups against sending leaflets and other items into North Korean territory, announcing plans to ban, investigate and take legal action against those who defy administrative orders.
Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung went a step further on Tuesday, announcing that he had asked police to investigate four activist groups — including FFNK — for “suspicions of fraud and misappropriation of funds.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea (VOMK), Keunsaem, and Helping North Korean in Direct Way (NKDW) are also subject to the potential investigation, according to a Gyeonggi Province statement.
In response, Eric Foley, who serves as CEO of the VOMK, told NK News his group was “stunned and, frankly, extremely puzzled by Governor Lee’s statement.”
“Voice of the Martyrs Korea has only ever launched the Bible by balloon,” he said. “We have never printed or distributed political flyers at any time.”
“As regards our financial accountability, Voice of the Martyrs Korea is regularly recognized internationally for our commitment to the highest possible accounting standards,” he continued.
“In the case of balloon launching, the next time the weather enables a launch, we will keep the promise we made to underground Christians 18 years ago: We will send Bibles to North Korea by balloon.”
Edited by Kelly Kauslis and Oliver Hotham
An activist group's attempt to send anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets across the border likely failed on Monday night, Seoul's unification ministry said Tuesday, raising possible concerns that the group lied about the size of its cross-border launch.
"The head of Fighters for a Free North Korea (FFNK), Park Sang-hak, on Monday night claimed that [the group] scattered 500,000 leaflets using 20 large-size balloons in the city of Paju. However, circumstances show that [this information] is unreliable," South Korea's Ministry of Unification (MOU) said in a statement on Tuesday evening.