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In the last few weeks, relations between North Korea and South Korea have hit a new low. There are several reasons for this, but one of them in particular interested me. This one was the problem of the “leaflet-droppers”.

The story seems to go like this. A group of people in South Korea — North Korean defectors and South Koreans alike — are sending leaflets over the border to North Korea. The leaflets say a number of things that irritate the North Korean regime — some explain the concept of freedom, others the concept of democracy, and others of human rights. Others still let the North Koreans know that their so-called “great” leader appears to be gravely ill.

Now, they obviously don’t send these things in the mail. Instead, they make use of the wind. When it’s blowing in the right direction, they attach their leaflets to helium balloons (and a timed device to pop them) and send them over the border through the air.

The North Koreans are furious about this. All that hard work, defending the people from such corrupting notions as “freedom” and “democracy”, and the people to the South have to go and ruin it by sending these leaflets over the border! Worse still, they imply that Kim Jong-il is sick! How is Kim Jong-il supposed to maintain a fanatical personality cult when everyone knows he’s at death’s door?

Naturally, they filed their complaint with the South Korean government. They demanded that the government crack down on the “leaflet-droppers” right now. The South Korean government sympathised, but pointed out that in South Korea, people have the right to let go of balloons if they feel like it. There was nothing they could do.

In retaliation, the North Korean government decided to overreact. They severed all non-military communication lines, not difficult considering that this was a matter of unplugging one phone. They closed the border with South Korea completely, thus preventing the South Koreans from sending any more aid. As reactions go, this one will hurt the North much, much more than it will the South. Still, I’ve no doubt that it will be explained to the North Koreans that the blockade is not at all their government’s fault. It’s just the way things go in North Korea, isn’t it?

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One Comment

  1. I find it amusing that they’re finding it hard to control a couple of helium balloons.


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