by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
Although North Korean defector Lee Min-bok found the controversial Hollywood comedy The Interview to be vulgar and admitted that he could not watch the film in its entirety, he decided to send thousands of DVD copies to the North anyway.
“The regime hates this film because it shows Kim Jong-un as a man, not a god,” Lee told CNN Seoul. “He cries and is afraid like us, and then he’s assassinated.”
After weeks of studying wind speed and directions, Lee drove to an area close to the border at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, with 80,000 DVD copies of The Interview hidden underneath black garbage bags in his truck. The South Korean police and military accompanied Lee to the launching site. After Pyongyang open fired on similar propaganda balloons last October, with the South returning fire, Seoul authorities have been taking precautions.
At 3 a.m., Lee filled the balloons with helium and tied them with packages of DVDs, dollar bills and political leaflets. A timer attached to each balloon ensures that the package is dropped once the balloon is safely in North Korean territory.
Unlike some activist groups, Lee chooses to launch the balloons in the dead of night to avoid confrontation from South Korean border-town residents. Many locals have protested against the launches, arguing that they are being put in the line of fire and that their safety is being jeopardized. Some have physically tried to stop activists from their campaigns, even though the South Korean government said the balloon launches are a private exercise of freedom of speech.
Despite the locals’ protests, Lee believes that the balloons are crucial in providing the North Korean people with a different perspective from the regime’s propaganda.
“If you tell the truth in North Korea, you die. But by using these balloons from here, I can tell the truth in safety,” he said. According to CNN, Lee has already sent three batches of balloons prior to his launch on Tuesday.