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North Korea accused of sending balloons with excrement to South

Written by on May 31, 2024

South Korea has warned residents living near the border with North Korea to be on the alert, after accusing the regime of sending balloons containing what appeared to be rubbish and faeces into its neighbour’s territory.

Photographs released by the South Korean military on Wednesday showed inflated balloons with plastic bags tethered to them.
Other images appeared to show trash strewn around collapsed balloons, with the word “excrement” written on a bag in one photograph.

By Wednesday, more than 150 balloons had been detected, according to the Yonhap news agency. Some had landed on the ground, while others were still in the air, it added, citing a South Korean military source.

Some of the balloons had travelled long distances, reaching as far as the south-eastern province of South Gyeongsang, it said.

The fallen balloons appeared to have been carrying various items of rubbish, including plastic bottles, batteries, shoe parts and what is believed to be manure, an official of the joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said.

The military said unidentified objects believed to be from North Korea had been spotted near the demilitarised zone – the heavily fortified border separating the two Koreas.

It urged people not to go near them and to report sightings to the military or police.

The military’s explosives ordnance unit and chemical and biological warfare response team were deployed to inspect and collect the objects.

“These acts by North Korea clearly violate international law and seriously threaten our people’s safety,” the JCS said, according to Yonhap.

“[We] sternly warn North Korea to immediately stop these inhumane and vulgar acts.”


The balloons arrived after Kim Kang-il, a North Korean defence vice-minister, warned that the regime would retaliate in response to anti-North Korean leaflets flown across the border in the opposite direction.

“Tit-for-tat action will be also taken against frequent scattering of leaflets and other rubbish [by South Korea] near border areas,” Kim said in a statement on Sunday, carried by the official KCNA news agency.

“Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of the Republic of Korea, and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them,” Kim added, referring to the South’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

For years, South Korean activists and North Korean defectors have sent balloons to North Korea carrying leaflets criticising the regime and urging North Koreans to rise up against the Kim dynasty that has ruled the country for decades.

They have also sent USB memory sticks of K-pop music videos, which are banned in the North.

In 2020, the South Korean government, led by liberal president Moon Jae-in, drew an angry response from human rights activists after it took action against two defector organisations that routinely released propaganda balloons, accusing them of unnecessarily provoking the North, hampering efforts to improve cross-border ties.

The government revoked the groups’ permits after they repeatedly ignored official requests to halt the flights, which campaigners had credited with educating some North Koreans about the true horrors of the regime in Pyongyang.

Moon’s administration criminalised leafleting campaigns in a law introduced in early 2021, six months after Pyongyang expressed its anger over the leaflets by blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong.

In 2023, South Korea’s constitutional court struck down the controversial leafleting law, calling it an excessive restriction on free speech.

Two years ago, during the Covid-19 pandemic, activists in the South clashed with the police as they launched helium-filled balloons across the border.

The balloons reportedly contained masks, over-the-counter painkillers and vitamin C tablets, as well as booklets celebrating life in the wealthy, democratic South.

The packages also included hundreds of USB sticks containing videos of United States congress members denouncing North Korea’s human rights record.

For the paranoid regime in Pyongyang, the balloons represent a potential existential threat since they challenge the carefully crafted narrative surrounding the Kim dynasty.

The regime routinely describes their contents as “dirty waste” and claimed, without evidence, that they were responsible for spreading the coronavirus.

Peter Ward, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute, said sending balloons was far less risky than taking overt military action.

“These kinds of grey zone tactics are more difficult to counter and hold less risk of uncontrollable military escalation, even if they’re horrid for the civilians who are ultimately targeted,” he said.

The use of propaganda balloons has long been a source of tension between North Korea and South Korea, which have technically been at war since their 1950 to 1953 conflict ended in an armistice agreement, but not a peace treaty.

The post North Korea accused of sending balloons with excrement to South appeared first on The Namibian.

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