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  Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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An attempt by South Korean activists to float 20,000 helium balloons
An attempt by South Korean activists to float 20,000 helium balloons carrying money and messages across the demilitarized border with the North failed on Monday due to strong headwinds, national media said.

The helium balloons were to be floated into the North to mark the 67th birthday of Kim Jong-il, the leader of the communist state. At least 30 of the 20,000 balloons carried enough money to feed a family in the North for a month.

One of the organizations involved is the Society for the Victims of Kidnapping, a group that campaigns for the return of South Koreans allegedly kidnapped by North Korean agents. "We are sending money to our family members, who are dying of starvation," Choi Sung-yong was quoted as saying during a press conference in Seoul earlier in the month.

A spokesman for the Minister of Affairs for the National Union of the Republic of Korea earlier said the activists could face up to three years behind bars or a fine of just over $10,000 if they went through with their attempt.

Relations between Seoul and the communist North have deteriorated since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February 2008.

After coming to power last February, Lee said he would review agreements reached at the 2000 and 2007 inter-Korean summits, and demand more in return from the North for the economic support provided by Seoul.

North Korea said recently it would scrap all political and military agreements with South Korea, including a non-aggression pact, over its neighbor's "hostile intent." The two countries are still technically at war as their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Pyongyang blasted on Monday media rumors that it was planning to test a long-range missile, describing a possible rocket launch as part of a domestic space program.


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