North Korea continues sending balloons carrying garbage to the South

North Korea continues sending balloons carrying garbage to the South
North Korea continues sending balloons carrying garbage to the South

A balloon sent by the North, carrying excrement and garbage, over a rice field in Cheorwon (Yonhap via REUTERS)

North Korea is sending more balloons that probably carry garbage towards the SouthSeoul’s military said late Monday, continuing a tit-for-tat balloon war between the two Koreas.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the North “is launching (alleged) garbage balloons aimed at the South once again” adding that the balloons were currently floating across the border.

A plastic bag with various objects, including what appeared to be garbage, on a street in Seoul in early June (Reuters)

“Citizens are advised to be careful with falling debris. If you find a fallen balloon, do not touch it and inform the nearest military unit or police station,” he added.

Pyongyang has already sent more than a thousand balloons with garbage to the south, in what it considers a retaliation for the balloons with anti-regime propaganda that have been launched to the North by activists south of the border.

The contents of one of the balloons launched by the North on a street in Seoul (Reuters)

A southern activist confirmed on Friday that he had launched more balloons, and Pyongyang promised to respond.

Seoul city authorities issued an alert to residents Monday night saying, “It has been confirmed that a garbage balloon from North Korea has entered Seoul airspace.”

A North Korean balloon over the sea near Incheon, South Korea (Yonhap via REUTERS)

Legally, South Korea cannot sanction activists who send balloons across border due to 2023 court ruling which prohibits it because it considers it an unjustifiable infringement of freedom of expression.

Last Thursday, activist Park Sang-hak, who defected from North Korea and has been sending leaflets against the regime to the North for years, said he had floated 20 balloons loaded with propaganda, as well as USB sticks with K-pop and television series, across the border.

Park Sang-hak prepares to release balloons with COVID-19 leaflets and medical supplies Gimpo, South Korea (Fighters For A Free North Korea via AP).

The North is extremely sensitive to its population’s access to South Korean pop cultureand a United Nations report states that possession of large amounts of such content has been punishable by death.

In the past, tensions over propaganda have reached dramatic extremes.

In 2020, Pyongyang, blaming anti-North leaflets, unilaterally cut all official military and political communication links with Seoul and blew up a disused inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border.

Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points in recent years. Kim Jong-un received Russian leader Vladimir Putin this week and signed a mutual defense agreement that has raised eyebrows in Seoul.

In response, the South – a major arms exporter – has said it will “reconsider” a long-standing policy that has prevented it from supplying arms directly to Ukraine.

Another balloon with garbage on an Incheon street (Yohap/Reuters)

Border tensions are likely to escalate quickly, experts say.

“We also cannot rule out the possibility that “North Korea will take more drastic provocative actions due to its confidence after signing the treaty with Russia.”said Hong Min, senior researcher at the Korean Institute for National Unification.

A U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Saturday to conduct joint military exercises aimed at better countering North Korean threats, ahead of joint military exercises by Seoul, Washington and Tokyo later this month.

Pyongyang has always dismissed these combined exercises as rehearsals for an invasion.

(With information from AFP)

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