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South Korea attempts to halt distribution of anti-North Korea leaflets

The South Korean government attempted to halt the distribution of anti-North Korea pamphlets across the border into North Korea by activists on Monday after threats from North Korea. North Korea threatened military action [AP report] if South Korean activists carried out their plan to pass leaflets across the border via balloons. In a post on Friday to the Korean Central News Agency [official website] site, North Korea stated [statement, in Korean] that the "plan [to release leaflets] was directly invented by the group of traitors and is being engineered by the [S]outh Korean military" and that if any leaflets were detected on the North Korean side of the border, North Korea would respond with a "merciless military strike." North Korea has made similar threats in the past, but this time it had been detected that North Korea was preparing artillery and moving troops into positions along the border. South Korean police closed roads, evacuated people form the border region and attempted to halt the distribution of leaflets across the border, but activists nonetheless were successful in releasing the balloons. No military response from North Korea has been initiated yet. Activists, including Free North Korea Radio [advocacy website, in Korean], stated that they only wished to educate North Koreans about human rights abuses by their government and they did not want to back down to threats.

North Korea has faced ongoing international criticism for human rights violations. In June the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that the North Korean caste system is used as justification for the systematic abuse and arbitrary detention of some North Korean citizens and that members of the lower castes are classified as "class enemies" and are not afforded basic human rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights criticized North Korea's human rights record [JURIST report] last November, focusing on the treatment of prisoners and echoing a UN General Assembly resolution [text] concerning the country's human rights conditions. In March 2010 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution [JURIST report] condemning North Korea for human rights abuses. Earlier that month, the UN Special Rapporteur for North Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn reported to the UNHRC that North Korean human rights situation was continuing to deteriorate [JURIST report]. This report came after Muntarbhorn's previous criticism, in October, 2009, of North Korea's "abysmal" ongoing human rights violations [JURIST report], alleging that the authoritarian government was responsible for various abuses, including torture, public executions, extensive surveillance, media censorship, women's rights violations and widespread hunger.

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