SEOUL — South Korean activists floated balloons carrying tens of thousands of anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea on Monday, eluding police who had disrupted an earlier launch attempt.
North Korea’s military warned last week that it would strike if the activists carried through with their plan to fly balloons carrying the propaganda leaflets across the border. South Korea pledged to retaliate if it was attacked.
South Korean police, citing security concerns, had sent hundreds of officers Monday to seal off roads and prevent the activists and others from gathering at an announced launch site near the border. Residents in the area were also asked to evacuate to underground facilities, according to Kim Jin A, a local official.
Later in the day, some of the activists moved to another site near the border that was not guarded by police and carried out the launch of the balloons. South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it was closely monitoring North Korea’s military movements but there were no suspicious activities.
Earlier, the South Korean government had implored activists to stop their campaign, but had cited freedom of speech in not making further attempts to intervene.
Activists have in the past sent leaflets across the border, and North Korea has issued similar threats to attack without following through. But Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported Monday that the ban on entering the border area was imposed as South Korea detected that North Korea had uncovered artillery muzzle covers and deployed troops to artillery positions.