Human rights activists have announced that they plan to smuggle copies of controversial U.S. comedy The Interview into North Korea using hydrogen balloons upon the film’s release on DVD. The balloons will be launched from neighbouring South Korea, travelling for several hours before dropping their cargo near the North’s capital, Pyongyang.
Set to be released in theatres on Christmas Day in the U.S., The Interview is a comedy which depicts a celebrity journalist and his producer, played by James Franco and Seth Rogen, who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The plan to float the politically sensitive film into the country is being funded by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) in New York and orchestrated by Park Sang Hak, head of Fighters for a Free North Korea, a South Korean activist group comprised of North Korean defectors opposed to Kim Jong-un’s regime.
The HRF has been funding similar balloon missions over the past two years in an attempt to have the outside world reach the “hermit state”. The balloons often contain political leaflets, USB drives, Hollywood posters and DVDs like Braveheart and Desperate Housewives, films that North Koreans can be executed for watching.
“The foundation’s actions are those of a civil rights group, a free society,” HRF’s president Thor Halvorssen said. “Everything we do in a free society is a threat to a totalitarian government.
“The North Korean tragedy is human made and I don’t have an answer. But I do know that it starts with educating and creating a civil society inside that country and breaking the monopoly of information that the Kim regime has successfully been able to deploy for so long.”
Halvorssen said that it was the power of ideas that made The Interview such a threat to the North Korean government, not the film itself. “Parody and satire is powerful. Ideas are what are going to win in North Korea. Ideas will bring down that regime.”
Although the balloons do not make it to the far reaches of the North, the political contents of the leaflets can be shared through the millions of cellphones used in the region.
News of the balloon plan comes as the film’s New York premiere was cancelled amid terror threats from ‘Guardians of the Peace’, the hacking group believed to be linked to North Korea that has claimed responsibility for targeting Sony Entertainment’s internal data over the past three weeks.
Invoking the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, Wednesday’s threat made claims of the “bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to”.
“The world will be full of fear,” the hackers warned. “Remember the 11th of September 2001.”
The US Department of Homeland Security has dismissed the hackers’ warning, citing "no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theatres in the United States”. They do, however, remain attentive to security measures.
The hackers have released more than a terabyte of data stolen from Sony so far in retaliation to the film, including film scripts, details of film stars’ fees and emails, some of which have proved highly embarrassing.
The North Korean government has called the film "undisguised sponsoring of terrorism" and an "act of war”.