North Korea’s ‘Gift’ to South: Balloons with Excrement Sent

North Korea

Summary

  • North Korea sends balloons carrying trash, excrement to the south
  • Ruling party official calls the balloons ‘gifts of sincerity'
  • South Korea says the act was base and dangerous
  • Both sides use balloons to float propaganda campaigns

On May 29, North Korea sent numerous balloons filled with trash and excrement over the border to South Korea. They referred to them as “gifts of sincerity”. This action angered Seoul, who condemned it as reckless and harmful.

The South Korean military shared pictures of balloons filled with plastic bags. Some photos displayed litter scattered near deflated balloons, and one picture had the word “excrement” written on a bag.

The South Korean military stated that over 260 balloons were found by Wednesday afternoon. Majority of these balloons have landed on the ground, containing animal waste and garbage. The military condemned this action as “base and dangerous”.

North Korea claimed that the balloons were a response to a continuous propaganda effort by defectors and activists from North Korea in South Korea. These individuals frequently send balloons filled with leaflets criticizing Pyongyang, as well as providing , medicine, money, and USB sticks containing K-pop music videos and dramas across the border.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a high-ranking ruling party member, criticized Seoul in a statement on state media KCNA, calling it “shameful and bold” for condemning the balloons while supporting its citizens' right to freedom of speech.

She promised to send many more balloons to South Korea as a gesture of sincerity towards those who long for freedom of expression.

An official from Seoul's presidential office mentioned that North Korea may wish to “test” South Korea's response, but assured that they will react calmly.

PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE

The official informed reporters that by placing trash and random items in balloons, they are testing our citizens' reactions and the government's response. They are also exploring how psychological warfare and minor threats could impact our country.

North Korea

The South Korean military sent out their explosives ordnance unit and chemical and biological warfare response team to check and gather the objects. Residents were alerted to stay clear and report any sightings to authorities.

North Korea's vice defense minister criticized balloons from South Korean activists as “dirty things” and a “dangerous provocation” on Sunday. He also threatened to send “mounds of waste-paper and filth” to the South in retaliation.

North Korea tried to disrupt GPS signals in South Korea on Wednesday morning, but no harm was done, as reported by Donga Ilbo newspaper, based on various government sources.

The defense ministry in Seoul stated that they had no comment at this regarding the report.

In the past, a South Korean administration tried to stop these activities, particularly following a 2014 event where the North attempted to shoot down balloons, causing concerns among border residents.

In 2021, a ban on releasing balloons was deemed unconstitutional by a high for infringing on freedom of speech.

North Korea often threatens to destroy South Korea, while both countries have large militaries stationed along the border.

Peter Ward, a fellow at the Sejong Institute, mentioned that sending balloons was a much safer option compared to engaging in 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.

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