Tensions increase on Ganghwa Islands at inter-Korean border

By Andres Sanchez Braun

Ganghwa, South Korea, Aug 11 (efe-epa).- The South Korean islands of Ganghwa County, on the border with the North, have been the scene of persistent tensions this summer.

The area has seen disputes in recent months over the distribution of propaganda and rice by activists and a North Korean defector who swam across the border.

The islands are located about 30 kilometers northwest of Seoul and are home to around 70,000 people.

Most of the population makes a living from rice cultivation, fishing and hosting tourists looking for a rural getaway.

This summer seemed like it would be more prosperous than usual thanks to an increase in domestic tourism due to the pandemic but has become a season of surprises.

Due to their proximity to the North Korean coast, as short as two kilometers in some places, the islands have been repeatedly chosen by activist groups sending various goods and political pamphlets to their impoverished and isolated neighbors.

They do so either using helium or hydrogen balloons or with plastic bottles.

Two activist groups that have gained the most notoriety in recent months are Fighters for a Free North Korea and Keunsaem, led by North Korean defectors and brothers Park Sang-hak and Park Jung-oh, respectively.

Han Deok-ho, leader of Ha-ri village on Seongmo Island, said about Keunsaem’s operations: “At first we thought that sending bottles was a good idea.

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