North Korea Threatens ‘Shower of Shells’ in Response to Propaganda Leaflets



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North Korea Criticizes South Korea for Reversing Law on Anti-North Korean Leaflets

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Park Sang-hak, a North Korean refugee, along with South Korean conservative activists, are preparing to release balloons carrying leaflets condemning the North Korean leader during an anti-North Korea rally.

North Korea’s Response

On November 8, North Korea criticized South Korea for removing a law that banned private activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to the North. They insist that such activities amount to psychological warfare and threatened to respond with a “shower of shells.”

The statement, published by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, was the first time state media commented on the decision by South Korea’s Constitutional Court in September to invalidate a 2020 law that criminalized leafletting. The decision was based on concerns that it excessively restricted free speech.

Background and Tensions

The ruling came in response to a complaint filed by North Korean defector-activists in the South, including Park Sang-hak, who has been a frequent target of North Korean government anger for his years-long campaign of flying leaflets across the border with giant balloons.

North Korea is extremely sensitive about any attempts to undermine the leadership of authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un as he maintains tight control over the country’s 26 million people while severely restricting their access to foreign news. The law was crafted by the previous liberal government in Seoul that pursued inter-Korean engagement, passed six months after the North expressed its frustration over the leaflets by blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong in June 2020.

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The tensions between the Koreas are at their highest point in years. Both Mr. Kim’s weapons tests and South Korea’s combined military exercises with the United States have intensified in a tit-for-tat cycle.

North Korea’s Warning

In comments attributed to a political commentator, the KCNA warned that the North in the current state of tensions would consider leafletting as a “high-level psychological warfare” and even a “pre-emptive attack conducted before a start of war.”

The agency claimed that future leafletting campaigns could trigger an unprecedented response from North Korea’s military, ready to “pour a shower of shells” toward the sites where the leaflets are launched.

History of Leaflet Campaigns

Park and other defectors from the North have used huge helium-filled balloons to launch leaflets criticizing Kim’s leadership, his nuclear weapons ambitions, and the country’s dismal human rights record. The leaflets are often packaged with U.S. dollar bills and USB sticks containing information about world news.

In his latest launch on Sept. 20, Park said he flew 20 balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets and 1,000 USB sticks from the South Korean border island of Ganghwa.

Overall, the tensions between North and South Korea are strained, with both sides expressing their grievances. These actions continue to contribute to the ongoing conflict and hostility between the two nations.

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