Propaganda balloons over N. Korea

By Daniele Pestilli on February 25, 2011
Photo of Kim Jong-il surrounded by advisors. From Wikimedia Commons.

The South Korean military has been sending off leaflets, medicine, clothing, food supplies and radios over the Northern border in propaganda balloons, Reuters and Yonhap News agencies have confirmed.

The Japanese daily, Asahi Shinbun, estimates that more than 3 million leaflets have been sent into the North since November 2010, and approximately 10,000 supplies, including food, clothing and medicine have reached the northern part of the peninsula this month. The balloons carried timers that were programmed to release the goods over impoverished areas.

The leaflets explain the recent uprisings in Egypt and Libya, thus challenging North Koreans to rethink the falsehoods they've been fed by their government their entire lives. They also emphasize the fact that Kim Jong-il’s dictatorship as well as his third son, Kim Jong-un’s looming transition to power are doomed to end soon, Asahi Shinbun reported.

However, a Reuters interview explains that the concepts of freedom and democracy are not well understood by North Koreans, who have received little if any formal and unbiased education. Furthermore, mention about challenging the Dear Leader is a frightening thought for most residents; there is widespread doubt that the leaflet method will spur a rebellion from within.

In the meanwhile, tension between the two countries rises as an 11-day joint U.S.-South Korean military drill is scheduled for next week. Yonhap News writes that a North Korean provocation is likely either before or after this exercise. The U.S. has stationed approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea, and according to the U.S. Forces Japan Official Military Website, there are another 36,000 U.S. military personnel stationed throughout the nearby Japan archipelago. The drills this coming Monday will involve 12,800 U.S. troops and 200,000 South Korean troops.

South Korea officially sent aid to North Korea during Kim Dae-jung’ s administration by means of the “Sunshine Policy” in 1998. For his efforts of reunification, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000. This policy was carried on throughout the Roh Mu-hyun administration. As explained in Donald Kirk’s Korean Dynasty, Hyundai Asan also played an important role in pioneering economic growth in the North. Although the company faced severe accusations of corruption, it continues to strive for economic cooperation and organized tourism between North and South Korea, in particular at Mt. Geumgang (Diamond Mountain).

Starting in March 2008, upon the election of the conservative President Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean government has taken a harsher stance on aiding the North. Lee refuses to give in to Pyongyang’s demands for concessions until the North gives up its nuclear program. In 2010, the South Korean Unification Ministry declared the “Sunshine Policy” a failure, thus ending South Korea's official efforts to aid the North.