North Korea sends 600 more trash-filled balloons over border to South

The balloons are landing in South Korea's northern provinces, including the capital Seoul and the adjacent area of Gyeonggi

Updated - June 02, 2024 12:51 pm IST

Published - June 02, 2024 11:09 am IST - Seoul

This photo provided by Incheon Fire Headquarters shows balloons with trash presumably sent by North Korea, in Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, June 2, 2024. North Korea launched hundreds of more trash-carrying balloons toward the South after a similar campaign a few days ago, according to South Korea’s military, in what Pyongyang calls retaliation for activists flying anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.

This photo provided by Incheon Fire Headquarters shows balloons with trash presumably sent by North Korea, in Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, June 2, 2024. North Korea launched hundreds of more trash-carrying balloons toward the South after a similar campaign a few days ago, according to South Korea’s military, in what Pyongyang calls retaliation for activists flying anti-North Korean leaflets across the border. | Photo Credit: AP

North Korea has sent around 600 more trash-filled balloons containing everything from cigarette butts to plastic across the border, Seoul's military said Sunday, adding that security personnel were collecting them as they landed.

"North Korea has resumed launching waste balloons towards South Korea," since around 8 p.m. (1100 GMT) June 1 evening, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

As of around 10 a.m. on June 2, "approximately 600 balloons have been identified, with about 20 to 50 balloons per hour moving through the air," it added.

The balloons are landing in South Korea's northern provinces, including the capital Seoul and the adjacent area of Gyeonggi, which collectively are home to nearly half of the South's population.

North Korea began sending hundreds of balloons carrying bags of trash earlier this week, which Seoul has slammed as "low-class", warning of strong countermeasures unless Pyongyang stops such "irrational" provocations.

Since the campaign started on May 28, some 900 balloons have been launched, the JCS said.

So far, they have been found to contain "waste such as cigarette butts, scrap paper, fabric pieces, and plastic," it said, adding that "no hazardous substances have been found."

"Our military is conducting surveillance and reconnaissance from the launch points of the balloons, tracking them through aerial reconnaissance, and collecting the fallen debris, prioritising public safety," it said.

"We urge the public to avoid contact with the fallen waste balloons and report them to the nearest military unit or police station," it added.

South Korean soldiers wearing protective gears check the trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, June 2, 2024. North Korea launched hundreds of more trash-carrying balloons toward the South after a similar campaign a few days earlier, according to South Korea’s military, in what Pyongyang calls retaliation for activists flying anti-North Korean leaflets across the border.

South Korean soldiers wearing protective gears check the trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea, in Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, June 2, 2024. North Korea launched hundreds of more trash-carrying balloons toward the South after a similar campaign a few days earlier, according to South Korea’s military, in what Pyongyang calls retaliation for activists flying anti-North Korean leaflets across the border. | Photo Credit: AP

Balloon wars

The Seoul city government sent a text alert to residents on June 1, warning of an "unidentified object presumed to be North Korean propaganda leaflets".

Pyongyang defended its release of the balloons earlier this week, saying the "sincere gifts" were retaliation for the balloons sent into North Korea with propaganda against leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has long been infuriated by the balloons sent by South Korean activists, which carry anti-Pyongyang leaflets. Sometimes, they also include cash, rice or USB thumb drives with South Korean drama series.

In 2018, during a period of improved inter-Korean relations, the leaders of the two Koreas agreed to "completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain", including the distribution of leaflets.

The South Korean parliament passed a law in 2020 criminalising the act of sending leaflets to the North, but the activists did not stop.

That same year, Pyongyang, blaming the anti-North leaflets, unilaterally cut off all official military and political communication links with the South and blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border.

Last year, South Korea's Constitutional Court struck down the 2020 law, calling it an undue limitation on free speech.

Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong — one of Pyongyang's key spokespeople — mocked South Korea for complaining about the balloons this week, saying North Koreans were simply exercising their freedom of expression.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.