Activist and North Korean defector Park Sang-hak was detained as protestors clashed with South Korean police over their attempts to airlift thousands of copies of The Interview into North Korea, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Park and the Human Rights Foundation announced their plan to send DVDs and USBs featuring the controversial James Franco and Seth Rogen comedy — which centers around the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — with Korean subtitles into the country last December. “North Korea’s absolute leadership will crumble if the idolization of leader Kim breaks down,” Park told the Associated Press at the time.
At a rest stop approximately 12 miles from the border, however, Park and his caravan were surrounded by three dozen South Korean police officers. Police found 2,000 copies of The Interview and 300,000 leaflets in the truck alongside American music and other media, all of which would have sailed into North Korea via hydrogen balloons.
Activists tried to launch 10 balloons, but police intervened and kept them from retrieving any items from the truck. Though they were met with resistance from police, who threatened arrest, the protestors, led by Human Rights Foundation head Thor Halvorssen, tried to counter with speeches promoting free speech and denouncing the North Korean government.
Protestors reportedly stood on top of a poster bearing Kim Jong-un’s face, while another sign partially read, “let’s bring down the hereditary dictatorship.” Halvorssen went so far as to decry the South Korean “police guards” for halting the operation, asking, “How different are they from the North Korean government?”
He went on to tell The Hollywood Reporter, “The sun rises tomorrow. And we have a plan.”
Upon the announcement of the plan late last year, South Korean border agencies worried that the demonstration would provoke their northern neighbors. But politicians in Seoul said they would not stop it because that would violate the country’s right to freedom of speech — a crucial difference between the North and South.
As others pointed out, the drop would ultimately function more as a stunt than a revolutionary spark. The majority of North Koreans have neither a DVD player nor computer, and they need special permission from the government to own one (if they can afford it — analysts estimated a computer would cost the average worker three months’ salary).
The Interview sparked an international crisis last year when, according to the FBI, North Korean hackers attacked the film’s studio, Sony Pictures, in an attempt to prevent its release (North Korea denied any involvement). Sony initially capitulated and canceled the film after major theater chains decided to drop the movie, but it ended up receiving a limited release in independent cinemas and video-on-demand services.