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North Korea demands halt to propaganda leaflets

North Korea demands halt to propaganda leaflets

North Korea threatened Monday to expel South Koreans working in the North if Seoul fails to stop activists from sending propaganda leaflets across the border, a South Korean defense official said.
Military officers made the demand to their South Korean counterparts during a 20-minute contact at the border, the second official meeting between the rival Koreas since the North broke off relations in February.
The North Koreans repeated a threat made during talks earlier in the month to expel South Koreans working at two joint reconciliation projects in the North if the leafletting does not stop, said Col. Lee Sang-cheol, head of the Defense Ministry's North Korea department.
The joint projects are an industrial park in the border city of Kaesong and a resort at Diamond Mountain.
The Koreas agreed in 2004 to end decades of propaganda warfare involving leaflets, loudspeakers and radio broadcasts. However, activists in South Korea continue to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North, and the South Korean government cites freedom of speech in its difficulty in stopping them.
South Korean military officers told their counterparts from the North that the government had appealed to activists to refrain from sending leaflets, the Defense Ministry said in a statement Monday.
South Korean officials also strongly urged the North to stop "slandering" South Korean President Lee Myung-bak though its state media, the ministry said.
Still, activists pushed ahead with their propaganda campaign Monday, sending helium balloons across the border filled with about 100,000 leaflets denouncing North Korea's authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Il.
Some of the leaflets mentioned Kim's reported health troubles and called for the North Korean people to rise up against him, activist Choi Sung-yong said. They sent 40,000 leaflets on boats off the east coast and 60,000 others from an island off the west coast.
U.S. and South Korean officials say Kim recently suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery, but the North has denied there is anything wrong with its 66-year-old leader.
An association of South Korean companies operating in the Kaesong complex said it has written activists asking them to stop sending the leaflets, saying the propaganda campaign could jeopardize their businesses.
"We're having a harder time since the leaflet issue came up," Lee In-dong, an official at the Cooperation of Kaesong Industrial Council, said Monday. "Many foreign buyers are canceling orders."
The complex combines South Korean technology and management expertise with cheap North Korean labor. Some 84 South Korean companies operate in the zone, employing about 35,000 North Korean workers.
During Monday's talks, military officers also discussed improving communication between the countries, South Korea's Defense Ministry said. The two Koreas are linked by nine military hot lines but some are now out of service for technical reasons, the ministry said.
The two countries technically remain at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The peninsula is divided by one of the world's most heavily fortified borders.
The North suspended reconciliation talks with the South after President Lee took office in February, and earlier this month warned that it would sever remaining relations unless South Korea abandons what it called a policy of "reckless confrontation."
The talks Monday were led by lieutenant colonel-level officers on both sides.