Leaflets launched into North Korea to mark Berlin Wall's collapse

10th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Newspapers urged Seoul's government to prepare in case the closely guarded frontier collapses as suddenly as the inter-German barrier did in 1989.

Imjingak -- South Korean activists launched leaflets attacking North Korea's leader across the world's last Cold War frontier, marking Monday's 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Newspapers urged Seoul's government to prepare in case the closely guarded frontier collapses as suddenly as the inter-German barrier did in 1989.

Communist North and capitalist South have been divided for more than half a century by minefields, barbed-wire fences and guard posts, leaving tens of thousands of families separated from loved ones.

About a dozen Christian activists at Imjingak 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Seoul floated a large balloon carrying about 2,500 leaflets over the frontier, an AFP photographer said.

The leaflets marking the anniversary also called for efforts to end human rights abuses in the North.

"Down with Kim Jong-Il's Songun dictatorship," they shouted in reference to the leader's army-first policy which prioritises the welfare of troops over civilians.

The anniversary "is an occasion for people of both Koreas to reflect on the stark reality of their national division," the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said.

In an editorial it forecast that as was the case with East and West Germany in 1989, the Korean peninsula could see an unexpected reunification.

The Korea Herald made the same point.

"Just as the fall of the Berlin Wall took the West Germans off guard, so may the collapse of the border fences come as a surprise to the South Koreans," it said, noting Kim's recent ill health.

"A key question here is whether or not South Korea is as well prepared for reunification as West Germany was. The answer is a resounding 'no.'"

The Herald noted South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak's proposal to help the North raise its per capita gross domestic product to 3,000 dollars during the next decade if it abandons its nuclear ambitions.

"He apparently believes reunification is unimaginable until then," its editorial said.

"But what if the Kim Jong-Il regime should collapse now? How should South Korea fund the reunification cost, which researchers say would be astronomical?"

Dong-A said the road to reunification was growing rockier.

Kim "seeks to transfer power to his son while confronting the international community with nuclear weapons. The North's population of 24 million, brainwashed by their totalitarian government, is struggling with starvation."

While the wealth gap between former East and West Germany was rapidly narrowing, the paper said, South Korea's gross national income was 38 times that of the North and trade volume 384 times more.

"Worse, the disparity is worsening with time. The only way for North Korea to stabilise its people's welfare is to take the path to peaceful reunification," Dong-A said.

Japan colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945. After its defeat in World War II, the country was hastily divided into US and Soviet spheres of influence.

The two separate countries formally came into being in 1948. In 1950 the North invaded the South, triggering a three-year war.

It ended only with an armistice and not a peace treaty, leaving the two nations still technically at war.


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