Saturday, August 23, 2003

UPDATE: Ballooning Radios to North Korea

Robert Koehler, the Marmot, describes the latest news on the attempts to get radios into the hands of North Korean citizens.
A tourist bus carrying German doctor and North Korean refugee activist Norbert Vollertsen (45) and 30 other members of a North Korean refugee support group was intercepted by police at 2:30 on August 22 at the Taema Intersection, about a mile from the group's destination - the old North Korean Labor Party Building in Chorwon-eup, Chorwon County, Kangwon Province [Marmot's Note: that building, which I visited last year, is a pretty freaky place - it changed hands several times during the Korean War, and was left in its current bombed-out state as a reminder of that terrible conflict]. They were stopped because authorities were not previously notified of the assembly.

Vollertsen was planning to release about 200 balloons (each one 90 cm in diameter) carrying about 600 miniature radios (each one 150 g) to North Korea so that North Korean citizens could listen to news from South Korean and the outside world and help open up the country.

Vollertsen showed reporters the plastic bags with the radios and was going to fill the balloons with helium when he and police scrummed [as the police tried to restrain him from filling the balloons], in the process falling and hurting his left leg. He was brought to a hospital afterwards.
Living in South Korea, Robert relates that propaganda flows in both directions over the DMZ all the time, but sending radios is too sensitive for the government to tolerate.

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