Seoul police say they’re questioning anti-North activists

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korean police said on Tuesday that they had summoned two activists accused of increasing tension with North Korea by sending propaganda balloons or plastic bottles filled with rice at the border.

Park Sang-hak, a North Korean refugee who floated anti-Pyongyang balloon pamphlets across the land border, and his brother Park Jung-oh, who floated plastic bottles full of rice on the sea border, were being interrogated in Seoul. Metropolitan Police Agency, said an agency official with direct knowledge of the cases.

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The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the media.

Police raided the Park brothers' offices last week and confiscated brochures, account books, cell phone data, computer files and other materials related to their activities.

The officer said further investigations were needed before determining whether the brothers should be charged with a crime.

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North Korea lifted Park Sang-hak's propaganda campaign and South Korea's failure to stop it earlier this month before it blew up an empty liaison office in North Territory and threatened other provocative measures.

South Korean officials later asked the police to investigate the Parks and other activists for increasing tensions and endangering residents who lived near the border.

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Officials in a province bordering North Korea have also accused several activist groups, including those in the Parks, of fraud, embezzlement and other charges about their donation activities.

The measures against the activists have invited criticism that President Moon Jae-in's liberal government is sacrificing democratic principles in an attempt to repair deteriorating ties with North Korea.

After his office was raided on Friday, Park Sang-hak told reporters he would continue to send pamphlets to North Korea to inform people of his authoritarian rule. He also accused the South Korean government of "gagging its people and destroying freedom of expression after succumbing" to North Korea.

Tensions eased somewhat last week, when North Korea announced it would postpone planned measures to overturn the reconciliation agreements it had previously reached with South Korea.

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Some experts say that North Korea has intentionally increased tensions as part of a strategy to secure external concessions at a time when it faces economic problems exacerbated by US-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

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