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North Korea Calls Planned Balloon Drop of 'The Interview' DVDs a 'De Facto Declaration of War'

The government of the Hermit Kingdom promised to shoot down any balloons that are launched over the border from South Korea and called activists behind the stunt "a group of hooligans more dead than alive."

by Gillian Mohney
Mar 23 2015, 12:10pm

Photo via AP

In a twist worthy of Hollywood, the North Korean government has called a planned balloon drop of The Interview DVDs into the country a "de facto declaration of a war." 

A statement obtained by KCNA Watch, which follows North Korea news, said the authorities would shoot down any balloons that carry The Interview DVDs or informational leaflets by South Korean activists and members of Human Rights Foundation.  

"They are mulling scattering DVDs and USBs containing The Interview," read a portion of the statement referring to the activists, also referred to as "a group of hooligans more dead than alive."

It continued: "[The] reactionary film that has been censured worldwide for seriously hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). This is the gravest politically-motivated provocation against the DPRK and a de facto declaration of a war against it."

The movie, a satirical take on North Korea, depicts the assassination of current leader Kim Jong-un. Its original release was scrapped after hackers threatened violence at any theater that showed the film. Sony Pictures also faced devastating leaks of employees' personal information in an electronic attack that was suspected of possibly originating in North Korea. 

The VICE News documentary, "Launching Balloons into North Korea: Propaganda Over Pyongyang"

In the statement, the North Korean government also warned South Korean residents living close to the border to evacuate in case the balloons prompted greater military action. 

Activists lead by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak, from Fighters for a Free North Korea, had planned on dropping 10,000 copies of The Interview and 500,000 informational leaflets in a fight to expose North Korean citizens to new information about their country, according to Global Post. The stunt was reportedly scheduled around March 26 to mark the fifth anniversary of the sinking of a South Korea warship, which the government has blamed on North Korea. 

Similar drops have previously led to violence. In 2014, a launch caused a brief exchange of gunfire after North Korean soldiers attempted to shoot down the balloons. 

Related: When VICE Met Kim Jong-un. Watch here.

Earlier this year, activists from the Human Rights Foundation and other organizations were followed by VICE News as they sent up balloons bearing informational leaflets and money in an attempt to spread information across the border. In that case, however, the South Korean government successfully pressured activists to keep The Interview DVDs out of the balloon's cargo. 

It's not clear if the South Korean government will try to intervene and stop the movie from being sent over this time. 

This new incendiary warning from North Korea comes at time of heightened tensions between the countries. Earlier this week the North Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom said his regime is prepared to go to nuclear war if provoked. 

"We are prepared," Hyun Hak-bong told Sky News. "That is why I say if a sparkle of a fire is made on the Korean peninsula, it will lead to a nuclear war."

Hyun made his statements as the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint military exercises. Both the US and South Korean governments have declared the exercises are purely defensive, but Pyongyang has said that the exercises are to prepare for a "pre-emptive" strike on North Korea. 

Related: North Korea is sidling up to Russia again Read more here.

"We don't say empty words. We mean what we mean. It is not the United States that has a monopoly on nuclear weapons strikes," Hyun told Sky News. 

South Korea's Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok told the Associated Press that the South Korean government does not believe that North Korea has the ability to miniaturize its nuclear warheads so they can be put into missiles. 

Follow Gillian Mohney on Twitter: @gillianmohney