It was a perfect day for a provocation. In late August, Norbert Vollertsen, a German human rights activist, traveled in a chartered bus from Seoul to Cholwon, just a few miles from the border with North Korea. His mission was simple: to launch a flock of hot air balloons, each bearing a small cargo of radios, that the day's brisk wind would carry into the North, where everyone but the elite is deprived of radios that would enable them to listen to foreign broadcasts. In addition to the balloons, the bus contained roughly a dozen journalists.
In the six months since North Korea began publicly threatening to build nuclear weapons, two of its largest trading partners-China and South Korea have largely buried their heads in the sand. When Kim Jong Il admitted last fall that North Korea was developing highly enriched uranium, a violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States, South Korean leaders were not discouraged from pursuing then-President Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" of engagement.