Skip to main content

Defector air drops The Interview DVDs into North Korea

Defector air drops The Interview DVDs into North Korea


Lee Min-bok used balloons to deliver 80,000 DVDs and anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border Saturday

Share this story

Handout/Getty Images

A South Korean activist this week used balloons to send thousands of DVDs of The Interview into North Korea. Lee Min-bok, a North Korean defector, tells AFP he's completed four balloon launches since January, with the latest carried out in the dead of night on Saturday. CNN accompanied him on Saturday's launch, which sent more than 80,000 copies of the Seth Rogen-directed movie and one million anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

The Interview, released last year, was denounced by North Korea as an "act of terror" for depicting the assassination of Kim Jong-un. The FBI blamed North Korea for carrying out a massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures in response to the film, which was eventually released online in December after major US theater chains pulled out.

"it shows Kim Jong-un as a man, not a god."

"The regime hates this film because it shows Kim Jong-un as a man, not a god," Lee tells CNN. "He cries and is afraid like us and then he's assassinated."

With CNN's camera team in tow, Lee tied the DVDs and leaflets to helium-filled balloons, and released them from an undisclosed location near the border at around 3AM local time. A timer was set to release them once the balloons were in North Korean territory, though it's impossible to say where the DVDs ended up.

north korean defector

(CNN screenshot)

Lee isn't the first to use so-called propaganda balloons to penetrate North Korea's hermetic borders. Last January, a group of defectors used the same tactic to send DVDs, USB sticks, and transistor radios into North Korea, where the internet and outside media is tightly controlled. In October 2014, North and South Korea exchanged fire after a group of South Korean activists launched propaganda balloons across the border. In January, North Korean defector Park Sang-hak said he would use balloons to deliver subtitled copies of The Interview on DVD and USB sticks to his former country, as part of an effort to dispel "the idolization of leader Kim." Last month, Park said he was moving forward with plans to send 10,000 copies of the movie into North Korea, though he added that the event would not be publicized.

As CNN reports, Lee chose to carry out his launches at night to avoid clashes with South Koreans living close to the border, who have grown uneasy since forces clashed over balloons in October. South Korea's Ministry of Unification declined to comment directly on Lee's campaign, with a spokesman telling AFP: "Our stance is that we continue to acknowledge the freedom of individuals to publicize their opinions."