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(LEAD) Defector group says COVID-19 pain relievers, anti-Kim banners sent to North

All News 15:07 July 07, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments from ministry official in last 2 paras)

GIMPO, South Korea, July 7 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean defectors' group said Thursday it has sent big balloons carrying COVID-19 pain relievers to North Korea, along with banners denouncing the regime's claim that leaflets sent from the South are responsible for its COVID-19 outbreak.

The Fighters for a Free North Korea said 20 plastic balloons were released at Gimpo, west of Seoul, on Wednesday, with 70,000 fever-reducing pills, 30,000 vitamin C tablets and 20,000 masks in them.

Also attached to the balloons were big banners countering North Korea's previous claim that its first COVID-19 outbreak was traced to a North Korean town adjacent to the inter-Korean border.

North Korean health authorities claimed a week earlier the country's COVID-19 outbreak had been traced to residents of a village in the eastern Kangwon province, who came into contact with "alien" things sent in balloons in April, apparently referring to leaflets and other materials coming from the South.

"We denounce Kim Jong-un, a hypocrite who let the vicious infectious disease from China spread and put the blame on anti-North leaflets," a photo of one of the banners, released by the defector group, showed.

With an aim to liberate North Korean people with the inflow of outside news and information, the defector group has long engaged in anti-North Korea leaflet campaigns. Their recent activities include the sending of leaflets in April on the news of President Yoon Suk-yeol's election and of COVID-19 pain relievers in late June.

South Korea's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs reiterated its calls for the defector group to refrain from releasing such balloons, an activity that may undermine a push for improving Seoul-Pyongyang ties.

"We fully understand the group's efforts to send medicine via balloons, but as the government is seeking inter-Korean health care cooperation, it would be right to refrain from sending them in consideration of what will be of actual help to North Koreans," a ministry official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity.

These photos provided by the Fighters for a Free North Korea show balloons sent to North Korea on July 6, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

These photos provided by the Fighters for a Free North Korea show balloons sent to North Korea on July 6, 2022. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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