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North Korean defectors unable to send rice amid opposition

North Korean defectors unable to send rice amid opposition
North Korean defectors opposed to Kim Jong Un are confronting challenges to their activism. File Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

June 8 (UPI) -- North Korean defectors in the South were unable to send rice to their country of origin following complaints from residents, according to activist groups.

Defector groups Kuen Saem Education Center and Fighters for a Free North Korea were carrying out rice distribution in Ganghwa county in Incheon when they were met with opposition, local news service Newsis reported Monday.

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The groups have previously delivered plastic bottles loaded with rice to the North by releasing them at sea. On Monday defectors were prepared to send 100 bottles to the North, where the population faces a chronic food shortage.

Residents in Ganghwa county confronted the defectors en route to a beach. Local residents said the rice deliveries would stir tensions between the two Koreas and "interfere with people's lives" in the region, according to the report.

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Police were deployed to the site to prevent any physical altercation between locals and the activists.

Park Jung-oh, head of Kuen Saem, said the rice deliveries have been taking place since April 2016.

"It is wrong for the government and the police to stop our event," Park said, according to Newsis.

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"If the [South Korean] government allows private groups to send goods to the North, I would like to know why they won't allow defectors to do the same."

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Park also said past deliveries have reached the North and have been able to keep ordinary North Koreans alive. The rice delivery will resume on June 21, Park said.

Park's brother, Park Sang-hak, is speaking out against South Korea's government, after Seoul warned against the distribution of anti-Pyongyang leaflets by helium balloon.

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Park suggested in an interview with local television network YTN the move to block freedom of expression violates Seoul's Constitution.

South Korea's support for ending leaflet activism is also drawing criticism from Seoul's main opposition conservatives, Yonhap reported Monday.

Lawmaker Kim Chong-in said it was "unwise" for Seoul to oppose leaflets. South Korea spoke out against the activism following threats against defectors, made by Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un.

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