In the past, Pyongyang has called the North Korean defectors who organize covert balloon launches “human scum.” For good measure, the North Korean military promises to “physically eliminate” anyone who dares to send any material into the hands of its citizens, thereby breaking its information monopoly.
The threats did not dissuade a hearty band of North Korean defectors, their South Korean allies, Silicon Valley technologists, and a global team of pro-democracy activists, who braved sub-zero temperatures late Monday night to send word about Sony’s controversial movie The Interview into one of the world’s darkest corners.
The instigator for this adventure was Park Sang Hak, a man targeted as “Enemy Zero” by the North for his anti-regime activities. The son of a former high-ranking official who himself defected in 1999, Park followed his father into exile, crossing the Yalu River into China with his mother, brother, and sister.
Over the past decade, Park and his Fighters for a Free North Korea have sent dozens of balloons to the North, releasing 60-80 million leaflets into the sky, with varying rates of success. Yet Park’s activism has earned the ire of Pyongyang, which in 2011 dispatched a double agent to the South to kill him with a poison-tipped pen.
This week’s launch was especially prominent, however, in light of the recent computer hack of Sony Pictures. Park enlisted the help of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, which launched a “Hack Them Back” campaign aimed at raising funds to send 100,000 copies of The Interview on DVD and USB into the North. Though the group did not send copies of the film on this launch, it plans to do so “on a rolling basis” over the next few months. A 2010 survey of North Korean refugees found that 48 percent had viewed DVDs, a 28 percent increase from just two years prior.
[The Daily Beast]