North Korea threatened yesterday to bombard a tourist area in South Korea with artillery shells if rights activists carry out their threat to shower the North with anti-Pyongyang leaflets.
The North's western command declared Imjin-gak, a historic site commemorating South Korean forces in the Korean War, and nearby Paju City, 35 miles north of Seoul, to be "targets of direct firing". The command warned citizens to leave the area.
Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency said the western command would carry out a "merciless military strike" if even "a minor movement for the scattering is captured in Imjin Pavilion and in its vicinity".
The activists, a group of North Korean defectors and human rights advocates, said they had often heard such threats and would go through with plans to drop around 200,000 leaflets. "They did not stop us before," said Pak Sang-hak, one of the defectors. "This is not going to stop us this time."
Activists have already filled bags containing American dollar bills and sweets, in addition to leaflets, that they plan to attach to balloons. Many of them are expected to fall on North Korean military sites just above the demilitarised zone between the countries, potentially stirring unrest among underfed North Korean troops.
The activists say they need to step up their campaign while North Korea, under Kim Jong-un, the young leader who rose to power after the death of his father last December, shows no sign of shifting policies. Human rights groups report that the North faces severe food shortages until it carries out promised economic reforms that would give people a greater share of the crops they grow on co-operative farms and more freedom to buy and sell at local farmers' markets.
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit this week to Yeonpyeong Island, the island in the Yellow Sea that North Korea shelled in November 2010, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.
Mr Lee, who under South Korea’s constitution, cannot run for a second five-year term, said South Korea would retaliate against any attack.
Kim Kwan-jin, the Defence Minister, said the South would carry out a "perfect response" to any North Korean assault – but gave no details.
Plain talk from Kim Jong-Un's Nephew
The nephew of North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-Un, has labelled his uncle a "dictator" in an interview that offers a rare insight into the secretive ruling family.
Speaking from the school in Bosnia where he is being educated, Kim Han-Sol, 17, said he wanted to "make things better" for the Korean people. He said he had wanted to meet his grandfather, Kim Jong-Il, who died last year, "because I just wanted to know what kind of person he is."
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