SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korean police said on Tuesday they called on two activists accused of tensions with North Korea by shipping propaganda balloons or plastic bottles filled with rice across the border.
Park Sang-hak, a North Korean refugee who has floated anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the land border by balloon, and his brother Park Jung-oh, who has floated plastic bottles filled with rice across the sea line, were interrogated in Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, said an agent with direct knowledge of the matter.
The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media.
Police raided the Park brothers’ offices last week and confiscated leaflets, account books, cell phone data, computer files and other material related to their activities.
The officer said further investigations were needed before deciding whether to charge the brothers with a crime.
North Korea brought up Park Sang-hak’s long-standing propaganda campaign and South Korea’s failure to prevent it earlier this month, before blowing up an empty liaison agency in the territory of the north and threatening other provocative measures.
South Korean officials later asked the police to investigate the parks and other activists to create tensions and potentially endanger residents near the border.
Authorities in a province bordering North Korea have also accused various activist groups, including those of the parks, of fraud, embezzlement and other charges of their donation activities.
The actions against the activists have led to criticism that the liberal government of President Moon sacrifices Jae-in democratic principles to try to restore deteriorating ties with North Korea.
After his office was robbed on Friday, Park Sang-hak told reporters he would continue to send leaflets to North Korea to inform people there of their authoritarian government. He also accused the South Korean government of “gagging the population and destroying freedom of speech after it succumbs” to North Korea.
Tensions eased slightly last week when North Korea announced it would postpone planned steps to annul the reconciliation agreements it had previously signed with South Korea.
Some experts say that North Korea has deliberately stepped up tensions as part of a strategy to go out of concessions at a time when it is facing worsening economic difficulties due to US-led sanctions and the corona virus pandemic.
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