SEOUL // A South Korean activist plans to launch a series of balloons carrying copies of the controversial Sony film The Interview across the border into North Korea.
Former defector Park Sang-hak said on Thursday the balloons would carry a total of 100,000 copies on DVDs and USB memory sticks of the film which has enraged the North’s leadership and sparked an international incident.
The comedy is about a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Threats made by hackers after a November cyberattack on the movie giant initially prompted Sony to cancel the film’s Christmas Day release, after many large US theatre chains decided not to carry it.
Washington blamed Pyongyang for the attack, but North Korea vehemently denied any involvement.
US president Barack Obama expressed regret at Sony's cancellation and the studio decided on a limited release of The Interview. It was also released online.
Last week the North derided Mr Obama as a “monkey” for encouraging cinemas to screen the comedy.
The giant balloons, which are used by private groups in the South to float anti-regime material across the heavily guarded border, will also carry bundles of leaflets.
“Probably the first launch will be made in late January if weather conditions allow,” Mr Park said.
He said the exact date would be decided when his partners from the US-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation visit Seoul around January 20.
The foundation had financed the production of the DVDs and USB memory sticks, he said.
South Korean activists – many of them defectors from the North – have been carrying out leaflet launches for years.
At times of heightened cross-border tensions, Seoul has stepped in to stop them for fear of retaliation.
In late October, a group of South Korean activists launched balloons to send leaflets to North Korea with messages critical of its leader, ignoring threats of military action from Pyongyang and a plea by Seoul not to jeopardise efforts to improve ties with the North.
Pyongyang has blamed the South Korean government for previous leaflet launches and has threatened military action.
Authorities in the South have urged activists to refrain from launching the leaflets, but say they cannot legally stop them due to the constitutional freedom of expression.
The messages often single out the young North Korean leader, questioning his legitimacy to rule a country where people struggle with poverty while his family lives in luxury and scarce resources are channelled to arms programmes.
Both sides traded heavy machine-gun fire on October 10 after the North’s military tried to shoot down some leaflet-laden balloons launched by South Korean activists.
Mr Park said his launch operation would get into its stride in March when the wind direction is favourable.
“I will never succumb to any threats,” he said.
Defectors say a considerable number of North Korean homes have DVD players, often second-hand models brought in from China, and residents watch discs from overseas even though they can face punishment.
* Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting from Reuters