Don’t mention The Interview to North Korea again. Seth Rogen’s political satire of Kim Jong-un’s country is yet again the source of a controversy a month after the DVD release.
Following the announcement of South Korea’s Alliance for the Movement of Free North that they would send 500,000 anti-DPRK leaflets in helium balloons as well as thousands of DVDs of the Sony feature on March 26th, the 5th anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan warship.
DVD Copies Delivered by Balloons
It is not the first time that South Korean civil liberty groups send anti-North propaganda via balloons. They are hoping to instill a revolution in North Korea and believe that Kim’s leadership will eventually crumble if his people have access to Western information.
When a delegation of DPRK athletes were visiting Seoul during the Asian Games a few weeks ago, Human Rights activists dispersed ‘free North Korea’ leaflets in balloon, a move that was stirred tensions between Pyeongyang and Seoul given the latter’s statement that they could not prevent free speech.
Korean People’s Army Calls the South a “US Puppet”
This time, the Korean People Army’s released yet but another colorful statement to warn against this intrusion. Calling South Korea a ‘puppet’ (to the US) three times and members of the NGO ‘group of hooligans more dead than alive who belong to the ultra-right conservative organizations’ and ‘despicable confrontational villains’, they reminded Seoul that stepping out of the ‘Military Demarcation Line’ to ‘scatter leaflets slandering the DPRK’ will be considered ‘the gravest politically-motivated provocation against the DPRK and a de facto declaration of a war against it’.
North Korea, who denies involvement in the Cheonan sinking, deplored ‘the south Korean puppet forces misuse’ of the warship case ‘an unprecedented hideous conspiratorial farce’ meant to ‘escalate confrontation with the DPRK’.
Calling The Interview ‘a reactionary film that has been censured worldwide for seriously hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK’, the statement, published on the Korean Central News Agency’s website, is not directly accessible to South Koreans due to Seoul’s censorship laws.
South Korean Censorship
Under South Korea’s Defamation Law, the Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) is allowed to delete pro-North Korea websites and cut off all access to DPRK-based websites in their country. In 2013, it was estimated that 23,000 pages were deleted and 63,000 more were blocked under this law. This has caused several publications, including The Economist, to dub Seoul ‘an Internet dinosaur recently’ and The Wall Street Journal to raise the question of whether the law was a ‘hurting’ South Korea’s democracy.
North Threatens to Shoot Down Balloons.
Nevertheless, Park Sang-hak, head of the Fighters for Free North Korea group that organizes the balloon launches, deemed Pyongyang’s threat to use its frontline military units to shoot down the balloons credible enough that his organization decided to postpone the launch today.
Sections of the DPRK’s statement are incredibly belligerent indeed:
‘All the firepower strike means of the frontline units of the KPA will launch without prior warning indiscriminate operations to blow up balloons carrying those leaflets.
Whether scattering operations are conducted in areas along the MDL or in any point of sea or in the air, whether balloons or drones are used for those operations and weather they are carried out openly or secretly, they will never escape strikes of firepower strike means of the KPA to be involved in the operations for blowing up the balloons. (…) Any challenge to the DPRK’s just physical countermeasures will entail double and treble merciless retaliatory strikes.
They even recommended that South Korean inhabitants living at the border should evacuate in anticipation of the strikes.
Tensions are a reality on the Korean peninsula, where war could technically resume any time.