S. Korea Prepares to Evacuate DMZ Citizens After Threat

South Korea is preparing to evacuate more than 800 residents along the demilitarized zone after North Korea threatened to fire on activists planning to send balloons across the border carrying leaflets critical of its regime.

While no orders to leave are currently in place, authorities have been preparing citizens residing within the civilian control line to evacuate if any signs of a possible attack emerge, Park Kwang Hae, an official at Paju City Council, said by telephone today.

The threat of an attack against activists is the first since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il in December. South Korea has not sighted any unusual troop movements north of the border today, said a Defense Ministry official, who could not be named due to military policy.

The activists are pushing ahead with their plan to send 200,000 leaflets at 11 a.m. today, according to Park Sang Hak, leader of the Fighters for Free North Korea, one of the organizers. They have sent balloons carrying leaflets on five occasions since the younger Kim’s ascension, he said.

North Korea’s army will conduct a “merciless military strike” if any move to drop leaflets is detected, according to a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency on Oct. 19. South Korea’s military is prepared to “completely destroy” the origin of a North Korean attack if it occurs, Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin told lawmakers the same day.

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The government in the North Korea capital of Pyongyang characterizes the leaflet drops as psychological warfare and an attempt to topple its communist regime -- provocations which it has said could ignite a war.

China opposes any actions that might escalate tension or military confrontation on the Korean peninsula, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

Entry will be limited to Imjingak, the outpost in Paju city from where South Korean activists plan to send the leaflets, said Park, the Paju official. Imjingak is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Seoul.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Seoul at syoon32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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