A Seoul-based human rights group can move forward with a plan to send copies of the controversial U.S. comedy The Interview to North Korea via hydrogen balloons, as the South Korean government said it did not intend to halt the project.
Fighters for a Free North Korea, a human rights group led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, announced on December 17 that it will smuggle copies of The Interview into the North upon the film’s release on DVD. Since the group’s announcement raised concerns that it might worsen inter-Korean relations, all eyes were on the South Korean government’s decision on whether or not to stop the plan.
Even though the general view was that the South Korean government wouldn’t allow the group to act, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification announced on January 9 that it will not stop the group from sending copies of movie to the North. However, the ministry will advise the group to make smart decisions so as not to cause any casualties by provoking Pyongyang’s anger against people living in the area where the group is planning to send the balloons.
“Sending leaflets to North Korea by a private organization is part of freedom of expression,” said Lim Byeong-cheol , the Unification ministry spokesman. “However, the government will take part when necessary measures are needed to protect people’s safety near the border,” he added.
If copies of movie are smuggled into North Korea as the group plans, it is expected to be a huge blow to the North as the movie portrays the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
A recent report from the Washington D.C.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) revealed that Pyongyang has already beefed up surveillance near the border with China in order to stop people from smuggling copies of The Interview into North Korea.
An unnamed source from North Pyeongan Province, which shares a border with China, told RFA that the North Korean authorities warned about a reactionary movie that humiliates the dignity of North Korea. According to RFA’s source, the North Korean authorities didn’t specify that the movie had been made in the United States. Authorities ordered people not to watch the film; citizens were told that those who watch or possess the movie will be severely punished. Ironically, the source explained that North Korea’s reaction to the movie only made people more curious about the film.
RFA added that North Korea’s heavy border surveillance is likely to continue.
The Interview is an American political satire comedy film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. In the film, Franco and Rogen are journalists who score an interview with Kim Jong-un and then are enlisted by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader. North Korea repeatedly condemned the movie by calling it an “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism” and an “act of war.” Sony Pictures, the studio responsible for the movie, was subject to an extensive hacking operation earlier this year, which the U.S. government says was perpetrated by North Korea in retaliation for The Interview.