North Korea: Bombarded By Leaflets
North Koreans who fled harsh rule for South Korea have set off giant balloons with tens of thousands of leaflets into North Korea condemning the dynastic succession in the hardline communist state following the death of Kim Jong Il.
The leaflets, launched two days after the North announced that its leader had died on Saturday of a heart attack, also called for an Arab spring-like uprising in the nuclear-armed nation, which rights groups call the world’s most oppressive nation.
Pyongyang is moving to ensure a smooth third-generation transition of power to Kim Jong Un, the heir-apparent and youngest son of Kim Jong Il, who took over upon the death of his father and national founder Kim Il Sung in 1994.
The leaflets are expected to infuriate Pyongyang, which tightly controls news from outside and has previously warned that it would fire at South Korea in response to such actions.
An emergency panel consisting of more than 40 South Korean human rights groups for North Korean defectors and refugees was set up following Kim’s death to launch the 10 balloons carrying the anti-North Korean leaflets from south of inter-Korean border, the world’s most heavily armed.
“With the death of Kim Jong Il, we have urgently gathered here today and formed a coalition of 42 North Korean refugees organizations,” declared Kim Sung Min, representative of the Free North Korea Radio in Seoul.
“It is our duty and historical obligations as North Korean defectors to dedicate ourselves for the democratization of North Korea irrespective of the changes in North Korea under the leadership of Kim Jong Un,” said Do Myung Hak, Secretary Director of the North Korea Intellectual Solidarity.
The hundreds of thousands of leaflets, carried by gas-filled balloons with timing devices to scatter them, contained news of the Arab Spring popular revolts triggered in Tunisia about a year ago that inspired other Arabs to rise up against entrenched authoritarian rulers.
Rulers were overthrown in Egypt and Libya while Yemen’s leader has stepped aside for a reformist transition and Syria’s president faces a spreading insurgency.
The leaflets showed graphic pictures of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s battered corpse and described his gruesome death, the Associated Press reported, and criticized a hereditary transfer of power in North Korea.
“Rise up people. Fight bravely like the Africans to end the third-generation succession,” read some leaflets.
“We will not sit idle while witnessing North Koreans suffer from oppression and hunger under autocratic leadership,” said Park Sang Hak, an official with the emergency committee that was formed in response to Kim’s death, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The defectors also expressed their opposition to any statements of condolence by South Koreans over the death of Kim Jong Il.
Seoul decided on Wednesday to allow civilians or private organizations to send messages of condolence on Kim’s death, a day after the government itself expressed its consolation for the North Korean people.
North Korean defectors in the South have often sent leaflets over the border blasting the ruling Kim dynasty or carrying news of the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa over the past year.
Seoul has made conciliatory gestures to its northern neighbor following Kim’s death, abandoning a plan to display Christmas lights near their common border.
South Korea resumed the display in December 2010, ending a suspension of several years, after Pyongyang launched a deadly artillery attack on a border South Korean island the previous month.
Seoul has also accused North Korea of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 that left 46 sailors dead.
Kim Jong Il’s state funeral has been set for Dec. 28 in Pyongyang, to be followed by a national memorial service the next day, according to state media.
North Korean officials say they will not invite foreign delegations and will allow no entertainment during the mourning period.
Millions of North Koreans have turned out to mourn Kim, with television showing mourners weeping before his portrait, state media in Pyongyang reported Wednesday.
The country is in a period of official mourning, with flags flying at half-mast at all military units, factories, businesses, farms and public buildings.
Reported by Sung Hui Moon for RFA’s Korea service. Translated by Bong Park. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.