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By Kurt Achin
27 October 2008
North Korea has warned South Korean military leaders it may suspend a key inter-Korean industrial project if South Korean civic groups do not stop launching leaflets into the North's territory. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.South Korea's Defense Ministry says North Korea threatened Monday to suspend a joint North-South industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong.
The two Koreas, which have never formally concluded their 1950s war, held military talks Monday at the border village of Panmunjeom. The South's delegate to the meeting, Colonel Lee Sang-Cheol, says North Korea is displeased with some unwelcome arrivals in its territory.
He says the North Koreans pointed out the spread of South Korean leaflets is on the rise and that Pyongyang demands the South take immediate measures to halt their distribution.
It is this kind of operation that has so angered North Korea. Even as Monday's military talks were taking place, human rights activists headed out to sea with bundles of leaflets they planned on launching into the North.
The leaflets are sharply critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. They are printed on thin plastic material resembling garbage bags, to make them as light as possible. Activists bundle them to giant helium balloons and cast them toward North Korea from South Korean waters.
Monday's operation was at least the second major leaflet launch this month. It was sponsored by a human rights advocacy group made up mainly of North Korean defectors to the South, and a South Korean group pushing for the return of fellow citizens believed to have been abducted to the North.
South Korea believes the North has kidnapped nearly 500 South Koreans over the past half century. North Korea denies any kidnappings of South Koreans.
Choi Sung-Young heads the abductee group. He says North Korea refuses to confirm whether the abuductees are alive, so this is all the group can do. He adds that he wants North-South dialogue to continue, but also wants the North to address abductee and human rights issues.
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak's administration came into office early this year vowing to give both issues high priority. South Korea's Unification Ministry has pleaded with the activist groups to stop the launches, but Seoul has done nothing to physically intervene.
In addition to the leaflets, the activists dropped plastic bottles filled with rice and small amounts of U.S. and Chinese currency into the water. They say they hope the ocean currents will carry the bottles to their impoverished fellow Koreans in the North.