Meet the North Korean defector who sends propaganda leaflets on balloons

In Pocheaon, South Korea, near the country’s border with its isolated northern neighbour, Minbok Lee spends his days in a converted shipping container stuffing plastic bags with everything from propaganda leaflets to used candy wrappers to computer memory sticks which he floats on homemade balloons to North Korea.

“I am sending the truth to make up for all the lies coming from North Korea,” Lee, who is a North Korean defector, told CTV News.

Years ago, Lee picked up a similar propaganda leaflet while living in North Korea. After reading it, he decided to escape.

On days when the wind is blowing towards Kim Jong Un’s hermit kingdom, Lee will fill dozens of his balloons with hydrogen gas to send them and their special payloads wafting above the most heavily guarded border in the world, too high to be shot down. He is not the only one doing this. But having launched thousands in his lifetime, he is widely known as the Balloon Man of South Korea and is considered the godfather of this floating act of protest.

The food wrappers, he adds, are meant to show North Koreans — who have frequently suffered from malnutrition and famine — what they’re missing.

Such work, Lee added, has made him a target for assassination.

“North Korea hates me so much that I have six bodyguards,” he said.

Each parcel weighs about seven kilograms. Lee has even developed a special timer that can allow thousands of leaflets to simultaneously float down to earth like snowflakes.

Although Lee has temporarily halted the flights at the request of the South Korean government, which did not want to provoke North Korea’s leader as he met with U.S. President Donald Trump, he has vowed to continue floating balloons into the country until North Korea becomes a free and open society.

With a report from CTV’s London Bureau Chief Paul Workman