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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Radio threat to N Korea's grip on news
Norbert Vollertsen holding up a radio
Radios would give people an alternative to the official line
The North Korean government's monopoly on news inside the Stalinist state is being challenged by South Korean activists, who plan to float radios across the border carried by helium baloons.

South Korean aid groups said they could launch 600 radios from near the Korean border as part of a campaign to highlight the North's human rights record.

But listening to foreign broadcasts is illegal in North Korea, putting anyone who finds a balloon-delivered radio at risk of going to jail.

The activists hope that giving people more access to foreign news will undermine the claims of Kim Jong-il's government and encourage more defectors.

My brother and his family were sent to prison for listening to South Korean broadcasts
Hwang Ki-Suk, North Korean defector
They also want to pressure the international community to include human rights issues during upcoming talks about North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Talks are expected to take place later this month or early in Septermber including the United States, Japan, Russia, China and North and South Korea.

The baloon campaign was unveiled by Norbert Vollersten, a German doctor expelled by North Korean in 2001 for criticising human rights abuses.

Mr Vollersten, whose publicity-conscious campaigning has been criticised by some, said the move was aimed at opening up the North "by the power of information".

The activists said they planned to fly more than 20 balloons, each six metres high and carrying about 30 small radios, into North Korea within the next two weeks, from either China or South Korea.

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