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Who Gives The Long-Term Jobless A Helping Hand?
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Who Gives The Long-Term Jobless A Helping Hand?


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.


And I'm Robert Siegel. In North Korea today, thousands of mourners trudged through snow in Pyongyang to pay their last respects. Their dear leader, Kim Jong Il, died from a sudden heart attack over the weekend and control of the country quickly passed to his son, Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, to the south, defectors continued to celebrate the dictator's death and, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports, they are trying to kick start a jasmine revolution across the border.


LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: With military music blaring, a green jeep pulls up in the car park. Women in matching camouflage fatigues, dark glasses and lipstick leap out. All are North Korean defectors. They've come to Imjinggak near the DMZ for a celebration.

PARK SANG-HAK: (Foreign Language Spoken).

LIM: We welcome the miserable death of dictator Kim Jong Il, the activists shout. They're led by Park Sang-hak, a prominent defector. Earlier this year, an assassination attempt against him was foiled when a North Korean spy was caught with poison-tipped needles.

Today, Park criticized the international communities' emphasis on a peaceful transition.

SANG-HAK: (Through Translator) The U.S. and China say North Korea has to stay stable. For 60 years, people have suffered under the world's worst dictatorship. Now is the perfect opportunity for them to win their freedom. How can you keep watching such suffering for the next few decades?

LIM: There are now more than 20,000 defectors in South Korea. Today, 30 groups were represented here. They believe that Kim Jong Il's sudden death has opened a window of opportunity that should be exploited.

Son Jeong-hun, one of the rally organizers, predicts that conflict among North Korea's elite factions could break out early next year.

SON JEONG-HUN: (Through Translator) As far as I know, there are a few progressive commanders in the North Korean Army who want to change the situation there. In my opinion, Kim Jong Un's lack of experience means he doesn't have the power to control party members in their 50s and 60s.

LIM: That may be wishful thinking. So far, the succession appears to be going smoothly with many analysts believing the army has pledged its loyalty to a collective leadership around Kim Jong Un. But Pyongyang is not taking any chances. Today, it put troops on alert.

Shin Ju-hyun is the chief editor of the Daily NK Website, which has contacts inside the north. He says draconian security measures have been put in place inside North Korea.

SHIN JU-HYUN: (Through Translator) Groups of more than five North Koreans are not allowed to gather together and armed policemen are stationed every 100 meters in every street. They also limit the number of people in every alley.

LIM: But, at night, you can hear - it's helium being pumped into these enormous 30 foot high balloons and the balloons are printed with slogans like, let's end three generations of dictatorship, and they're about to be released across the border into North Korea. Each of these balloons is carrying thousands of propaganda leaflets.

With more slogan shouting, the balloons and leaflets are launched. The leaflets list the Kim family's excesses. They also provide descriptions of the Arab Spring. The act of releasing these balloons seems largely a symbolic gesture, but defector Hahn Il-seong disagrees.

HAHN IL-SEONG: (Through Translator) These are enormously helpful. The North Koreans are told that South Korea poisons these leaflets and they're not allowed to touch them, but sometimes, we put pictures of defectors in these leaflets and one of my nephews inside the north told me he actually saw my picture this way and knew I was living in the south.


LIM: These balloon launches have unsettled the south, as well. Its national intelligence service urged the defectors to cancel today's launch for fear of antagonizing Pyongyang at a time of mourning. But they refused to back down. Antagonizing Pyongyang and causing strains to emerge is exactly what they want.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Seoul.

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