Balloon plan to get The Interview into North Korea

A poster of Sony's The Interview is shown during a news report being screened at Seoul Railway Station in South Korea. Picture: AP
A poster of Sony's The Interview is shown during a news report being screened at Seoul Railway Station in South Korea. Picture: AP
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A SOUTH Korean activist said yesterday that he will launch balloons carrying DVDs of Sony’s The Interview toward North Korea to try to break down a personality cult built around dictator Kim Jong-un.

The comedy depicting an assassination attempt on Kim is at the centre of tension between North Korea and the US, with Washington blaming Pyongyang for crippling
computer hacking attacks on Sony Entertainment.

Pyongyang denies that and has vowed to retaliate.

Activist Park Sang-hak said he will start dropping 100,000 DVDs and USBs of the film by balloon in North Korea from late January.

Park, a North Korean defector, said he is partnering with the US-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation, which is financing the making of the DVDs and memory sticks of the movie with Korean subtitles.

Park said foundation officials plan to visit South Korea around 20 January to hand over the DVDs and USBs, and that he and the officials will then float the first batch of the balloons if weather conditions allow.

“North Korea’s absolute leadership will crumble if the idolisation of leader Kim breaks down,” Park said by telephone.

North Korea has expressed anger over the movie. In October, the country opened fire at giant balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated across the border by South Korean activists,
triggering an exchange of gunfire with South Korean troops.

But it is not clear how effective the plan will be, as only a small number of North Korean citizens are believed to own computers or DVD players.

Owning a computer
requires government permission and costs three months’ salary for the average worker, according to South Korean analysts. Many North Koreans will also be reluctant to watch the film for fear of reprisals.

Meanwhile, South Korea has proposed to resume stalled talks with North Korea amid the heightened diplomatic ­tension after the row about the film company hacking.

North Korea denies responsibility for the hack and subsequently blamed Washington for its own internet outages, and has denied any involvement in recent system breaches into South Korea’s state nuclear power operator.

Seoul’s unification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said the South had sent a letter to Pyongyang seeking negotiations, which it hopes to hold in January. The North has accepted the letter but has yet to respond.

A delegation of high-level ­officials from North Korea made a surprise visit in October to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games hosted by the South, and promised to reopen dialogue between the two. However, the two sides failed to hold follow-up talks as tension persisted.

Military officials from North and South Korea met in October to ­discuss border altercations, ­including exchanges of fire. However, they did not resolve their differences.