South Koreans fly new batch of propaganda leaflets to North Korea as balloon war escalates

North Korea halted flights of trash balloons but has threatened to resume if South Korean activists sent leaflets again

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 06 June 2024 06:05 BST
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North Korea sends around 600 more rubbish-filled balloons into South Korea

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South Korean activists said they have flown a new batch of balloons carrying propaganda leaflets towards North Korea after Pyongyang sent balloons filled with trash over the border, escalating bilateral tensions.

A South Korean civilian group led by North Korean defector Park Sang-hak said 10 large balloons filled with 200,000 anti-Pyongyang leaflets, USB sticks with K-pop songs and South Korean dramas and one-dollar US bills were released from a border town on Thursday.

The idea is to tell North Koreans that life is better in South Korea and infuriate Pyongyang, which is extremely wary of outside attempts to undermine Kim Jong-un’s rule.

North Korea launched hundreds of balloons filled with manure, cigarette butts, scraps of cloth, waste batteries and reportedly even dirty diapers across South Korea last week.

It prompted Seoul to suspend a 2018 defence pact with the North aimed at lowering military tensions along the border and prepared to resume frontline military activities.

The balloons dumping waste in South Korea were launched in retaliation to a similar propaganda campaign by defectors and activists in the South.

South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear check trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Incheon
South Korean soldiers wearing protective gear check trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Incheon (AP)

After it sent more than a thousand balloons in subsequent days, North Korea said it was halting its flights of trash balloons but threatened to resume them in greater volume if South Korean activists sent leaflets again.

"We sent the truth and love, medicines, one-dollar bills and songs. But a barbaric Kim Jong-un sent us filth and garbage and he hasn’t made a word of apology over that," Mr Park said in a statement.

"Our group, the Fighters for Free North Korea, will keep sending our leaflets, which are the letters of truth and freedom for our beloved North Korean compatriots."

A balloon believed to have been sent by North Korea carrying various objects, including what appeared to be trash and excrement, is seen over a rice field at Cheorwon on 29 May
A balloon believed to have been sent by North Korea carrying various objects, including what appeared to be trash and excrement, is seen over a rice field at Cheorwon on 29 May (Reuters)

Mr Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong called the balloons sent by North Korea “sincere presents” and the campaign was meant to carry out the North’s threat to conduct a tit-for-tat action against South Korean leafletting.

The office of South Korea’s president Yoon Suk-yeol called the balloons “dirty provocations no normal country would think of”, and vowed his country would take retaliatory “steps that North Korea would find unbearable”.

The neighbours have been sending balloons and propaganda leaflets across their border since the Korean War in the 1950s.

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