Blowing in the Wind:

A fascinating story in today's L.A. Times:

Lee [Min-bok] is equal parts meteorologist, tinkering inventor and political dissident, a man obsessed by a singular goal: to spirit messages to those left behind in his native North Korea -- 23 million countrymen living under the ironfisted rule of Kim Jong Il.

To reach the isolated society devoid of outside newspapers, radio and television, the 52-year-old defector uses a simple yet elegant method to fly under the radar of North Korean intelligence watchdogs: He sends millions of leaflets northward by way of his towering helium balloons....

The messages are reaching common North Koreans.

Park Kwon-ha, a defector and former North Korean soldier, escaped in 2005. He says the leaflets were like gold from the sky: "It cannot be overemphasized how effective the fliers are. Because the more you learn from one flier, the more you want to know." ...

"Pyongyang is apoplectic," says Marcus Noland, a North Korea scholar for the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

"These defectors are from within the system. They know exactly what to say and how to say it. And they hit a nerve. For Pyongyang, they stick the knife in and twist it."