South Korea to drop 'The Interview' in North Korea via balloons

It looks as if at least some North Koreans are going to be able to see the film, "The Interview." South Korea is planning on dropping copies of the film into North Korea using balloons.


A South Korean activist said Wednesday that he will launch balloons carrying DVDs of Sony's "The Interview" toward North Korea to try to break down a personality cult built around dictator Kim Jong Un.

The comedy depicting an assassination attempt on Kim is at the center of tension between North Korea and the U.S., with Washington blaming Pyongyang for crippling hacking attacks on Sony Entertainment. Pyongyang denies that and has vowed to retaliate.

Activist Park Sang-hak said he will start dropping 100,000 DVDs and USBs with the movie by balloon in North Korea as early as late January. Park, a North Korean defector, said he's partnering with the U.S.-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation, which is financing the making of the DVDs and USB memory sticks of the movie with Korean subtitles.

Park said foundation officials plan to visit South Korea around Jan. 20 to hand over the DVDs and USBs, and that he and the officials will then try to float the first batch of the balloons if weather conditions allow.

"North Korea's absolute leadership will crumble if the idolization of leader Kim breaks down," Park said by telephone.

If carried out, the move was expected to enrage North Korea, which expressed anger over the movie. In October, the country opened fire at giant balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated across the border by South Korean activists, trigging an exchange of gunfire with South Korean troops.

But it is not clear how effective the plan will be, as only a small number of ordinary North Korean citizens are believed to own computers or DVD players. Many North Koreans would not probably risk watching the movie as they know they would get into trouble if caught. Owning a computer requires permission from the government and costs as much as three months' salary for the average worker, according to South Korean analysts.

Not everyone supports sending balloons into the North, with liberals and border town residents in South Korea urging the activists to stop. North Korea has long demanded that South Korea stop the activists, but Seoul refuses, citing freedom of speech.

Park said the ballooning will be done clandestinely, with the pace picking up in March when he expects the wind direction to become more favorable.

The activists are tilting at windmills. One measly film - or several films - will not be able to counter the massive and constant propaganda effort of the North Korean government to turn their citizens into Kim-worshiping automatons. The society is regimented beyond belief and citizens who come across the film are just as likely to turn it in to authorities as they are to watch it.

Angering a paranoid regime could lead to a violent reaction. Who knows what Kim believes is enough to start a war? Perhaps in this instance, it would be better not to poke the bear with a stick.

Thomas Lifson adds:

I strongly disagree with Rick, and in fact wrote about the tactic of ballon drops when the hacking first was publicized. Rick is dead wrong about the effects of such a movie. I have read a lot about North Korea, including accounts of defectors. The regime is highly vulnerable to mockery puncturing the image it is trying to create of the fat boy as a real leader. He has a lot going against him, including his youth, in a country that remains deeply influenced by Confucianism despite decades of official communism. 

Sure, some people may turn in the memory sticks, but doing so is risky because they may be suspected of having watched them. In fact, reports of defectors indicate that a lot of people already have video players and watch videos dropped or smuggled into North Korea, something that has meaningfully changed the tenor of public opinion there, especially raising the undertsanding that people in the South are not starving as the regime claims, but instead enjoy cars, air conditioning, and abundant consumer electronics, all of which are pictured in the soap operas, news reports, and other progamming smuggled in.

The South Koreans know exactly what they are doing, and the North Koreans know that if they launch a war they will be annihilated. They are not crazed religious fanatics, they are gangsters. 

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